China’s pace of construction and demolition will largely determine its aluminum scrap flows.
Aluminum recycling patterns are clear and the percentages are high in Europe and North America, but such patterns in China will develop uniquely, says Chris Bayliss of the London-based International Aluminium Institute (IAI).
Speaking to attendees of a session at the 2012 CMRA (China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association Recycling Metal Branch) Recycling Metal International Forum in Beijing in November, Bayliss said China’s use of aluminum in the past 10 years is showing different patterns from what has occurred in Europe or North America.
Globally, Bayliss said some 1 billion metric tons of aluminum have been produced since 1900, with 800 million of that amount having been made since 1980. Furthermore, of that 1 billion metric tons, he estimates that some 730 million metric tons is “still in use” as a building product, an automotive component or as scrap or secondary aluminum waiting to be re-used.
While China is now the world’s largest aluminum producer, its ability to make secondary aluminum from domestic scrap will be inhibited by a critical market share difference it has with North America or Europe.
While 25 percent of the aluminum produced each year in North America and Europe may go into building products and construction projects, some 50 percent of the aluminum produced in China goes into this sector. “The scrap flow [in the West] today doesn’t necessarily affect the recycling potential of the future in China,” said Bayliss.
Although this aluminum in China is likely to be recycled at the end of its life, it is likely to be out of the recycling loop for some time, as buildings most often stay in use much longer than vehicles or, especially, packaging.
In 2011, said Bayliss, the world produced more than 40 million metric tons of primary aluminum and 22 million metric tons of secondary aluminum.
The IAI’s projections call for some 30 million metric tons of scrap to be available in 2020. “It’s not an unlimited supply of scrap,” said Bayliss, especially “when you have companies like Novelis talking about securing [more] supply for themselves.”
The 2012 CMRA Recycling Metal International Forum was at the China World Hotel in Beijing Nov. 7-9.