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Aluminium Re-Use and Recycling for Sustainability

Fri, 01 November, 2019

Aluminium is often associated with light-weighting of structures and components for many industries including automotive and construction. However, while aluminium provides a number of benefits for everything from bridges and housing to shipping, rapid growth in its use could present challenges for the aluminium industry, to meet potential demand for new primary aluminium. The production of primary aluminium also has a strong environmental impact, which can be greatly mitigated by the use of recycled aluminium instead.

While aluminium re-use provides a sustainable solution for future applications, it can be difficult to recycle the metal once it has been mixed with other materials. This issue can be particularly prevalent in the built environment where aluminium use looks set to continue increasing.

An efficient solution to address aluminium re-use and recycling for sustainability is to create a “closed loop” recycling method, whereby the end-life and recyclability of any new aluminium applications are considered at the design stage. This may include thinking about the compatibility of different materials, how to join them together, how to repair, dismantle and separate them and how to maintain their uniqueness at end of life, to enable proper and assured recyclability. Many of these requirements feature within technology development at TWI. For example, in choosing optimised joining and assembly process, selecting compatible consumables and best practice production regimes.

The key to successful outcomes involves not just designing for function, as has often been the case historically, but to actively consider designs that encompass sustainability and re-use. Making products from which the aluminium can easily be stripped away and used again, at the end of their service life, would not only support capacity for increased aluminium use, but deliver enduring and positive environmental effects.

TWI is proud to be working with our Industrial Members and industrial bodies such as the Aluminium Federation and the Building Research Establishment to help create a circular economy for aluminium and its alloys across a range of applications within the built environment.

We are planning a dedicated workshop to look into design and build for aluminium re-use and recycling for sustainability within this sector. The event will comprise expert speakers and discussion forum across a broad range of topics, including material selection, manufacturing process, structural and environmental integrity, energy efficiency and “Smart City” concepts.

This workshop is set to take place on 27 February 2020, and details will follow in due course.


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