The aluminium economy is a circular economy. For most aluminium products, the metal is not actually consumed during the product’s lifetime, but simply used with the potential to be used again through recycling. Aluminium can be recycled again and again without any loss of its inherent properties, since its atomic structure is not altered during melting. Therefore, the life cycle of an aluminium product is not the traditional “cradle- to-grave” sequence, but rather a renewable “cradle-to-cradle”.
The high value of aluminium scrap is a key incentive and major economic impetus for recycling, independent of any legislative or political initiatives to encourage recycling. Aluminium scrap has considerable market value because most of the energy required for the production of primary aluminium is embodied in the metal itself and, consequently, in the scrap. Therefore, the energy needed to melt aluminium scrap is only a fraction of that required for primary aluminium production. Recycling of aluminium products needs only 5% of the energy needed for primary aluminium production.
Greenhouse Gas Reduction
In addition, recycling of aluminium products only emits 5% of the greenhouse gas emitted in primary aluminium production. Recycling of scrap from used products (“old scrap”) saved over 70 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide in 2005. Since its inception, the recycling of old scrap has already avoided over one billion metric tonnes of CO2 emissions.