Let’s Take a Closer Look at the Possibilities
Aluminium is a vital metal and can be key for the transition to a net-zero economy. The fact that aluminium is durable, lightweight, conductive and formable makes it unique and extremely valuable. Right from its production to the end of its use, aluminium is valuable at every stage as it can be endlessly recycled without losing its core material properties. This makes aluminium products 100% recyclable. Recycling aluminium is much more beneficial for the environment as it requires only about 5% of the energy compared to that needed when producing it from raw materials. This results in the reduction of greenhouse gasses by 95%.
Recycling of Aluminium
In order to recycle aluminium, the process starts by collecting and sorting scrap metal. This is usually collected in big containers that are sorted by the type of alloy. From this collection of scrap metal, the aluminium is carefully sorted, recycled and then reused to make the same type of product. By doing so, the use of aluminium is optimised, and waste is reduced.
The Recycling Loop
When it comes to recycling aluminium, there are two technical recycling loops identified – open and closed. Open-loop recycling is a process in which the materials are recycled and converted into both new raw materials and waste product. Usually with open-loop recycling, there can often be some degradation of the material being recycled and the loss of attached materials. This process is also known as downcycling or reprocessing.
Closed-loop recycling on the other hand is when the aluminium being recycled is used to create the same product as before. In this method, there is no loss of properties and no waste produced during the recycling process. This is the most popular recycling method for aluminium used in Europe. To understand this better, we will look at an example of recycling drink cans.
For the recycling of drink cans, the closed-loop system is used where the cans are collected, sorted and then melted to create new cans. There is no loss of properties during this method and the waste is minimised.
Recycling and Market Demands
Currently, of all the aluminium produced in the world, 75% of it is still in use. This is mainly because aluminium is a highly durable and extremely recyclable metal. It is impossible currently to indicate whether the aluminium being recycled has been recycled previously. Most of the aluminium wholesalers deal with a mix of newly produced aluminium along with some recycled aluminium. The current aluminium scrap available for recycling is not enough to match up to the actual demand for aluminium in the market.
The Market for Aluminium Decking Products
Since the banning of combustible products in the external wall systems of buildings, the demand for aluminium decking products has been extremely high. Aluminium is non-combustible, lightweight, durable and easily recycled, making it the perfect choice for all decking needs. There are various innovative products available in the market today, some that even offer a wood-like finish on aluminium decking, adding the charm of natural wood to aluminium decking while being fully compliant with the latest building regulations.
But considering that 75% of the aluminium produced in the world is still in use due to the high durability of the metal, and a huge part of the recycled metal being used to create similar or the same product after recycling, the chance of creating aluminium decking with 100% recycled products is very slim at the moment. Most of the products available in the market today are easily recyclable in the future.
Also, aluminium is three times stronger than regular composite decking and so more durable. It does not need to be replaced as often and has a lifetime of over 30 years. This limits the supply of recycled materials in the production of decking solutions.
Alumeco – Recycling of Aluminium