aluminum wheel scrap
A report from the World Economic Forum and Accenture says “aluminum’s infinite recyclability” is “the answer to the aluminum industry’s emissions issue.”
Photo by Recycling Today staff.

WEF points to value of aluminum recycling

Report from the World Economic Forum urges increased collection, upgrading of aluminum scrap.

December 10, 2021

The Switzerland-based World Economic Forum (WEF) has published an online article praising the energy savings and emissions reductions aspects of recycling aluminum. The article’s authors also urge greater global efforts to collect used beverage cans (UBCs) and to upgrade automotive scrap.

The headline of the article states that “aluminum’s infinite recyclability” is “the answer to the aluminum industry’s emissions issue.”

The four co-authors, two of whom work for the WEF, and the other two for global consultancy Accenture, write, “Over 90 percent of current aluminum emissions are associated with primary production. But secondary, or recycled, aluminum uses just 5 percent of the energy required for primary production.”

To take full advantage of those sustainable aspects, the authors advocate boosting aluminum’s already high global 73 percent recycling rate, pointing to UBC collections in some parts of the world—including the United States—as areas for potential improvement.

“The U.S. offers the biggest opportunity to implement a modern national bottle bill, and there is momentum among industry players and recyclers to enable that ambitious policy,” the article’s authors write.

They also point to a document issued by packaging firm Ball Corp., in cooperation with aluminum producer Novelis and technology vendor Tomra, that offers “a vision to achieve a 90 percent recycling rate and 85 percent recycled content for aluminum cans by 2030.”

In the end-of-life vehicle sector, the article states, “The challenge with [aluminum] automotive scrap lies in sorting the aluminum alloys to retain the quality and value of the original components.”

Increased dismantling before shredding offers one alternative, the authors say, though executives and managers in the auto recycling and scrap processing industries may question whether the current labor market can support such activity.

The report also points to the goal of technology that can keep shredding and automated sorting in the picture. “Today, [shredded aluminum] can be sorted through 1) robotic sorting that uses visual identification of scrap to automate the sorting process; 2) infrared sorting to analyze material composition; 3) X-ray fluorescence to sort based on elemental composition; and 4) eddy-current sorting using magnetic fields,” write the WEF and Accenture authors.

The online article can be found on this web page.