Memorandum by the Aluminium Federation
and Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation
Although a relatively "young" material
only discovered in 1807 and produced commercially since 1886,
it is impossible to imagine life without aluminium. Think of any
aspect of daily life and aluminium is most likely to feature in
"The life cycle of aluminium is a never-ending
The Government's Waste Strategy published in
2007 identified aluminium as a "Key Material". The Waste
Strategy complimented the Climate Change Bill with a focus on
carbon reduction, seeking to maximise the recycling of materials
which have the potential to contribute to a significant reduction
in carbon emissions.
This is welcomed by the aluminium industry.
Bauxite, the ore from which aluminium is made, is
available in abundance. It is estimated that at present consumption
there remains 300 years of commercially available bauxite deposits
in the world;
Current global output of primary (new) aluminium
is 35 million tonnes annually. Global production of recycled aluminium
was 16.4 million tonnes in 2006;
60 per cent of the world's primary aluminium is produced
using clean, renewable, hydroelectric power;
Currently demand for primary aluminium outstrips
production and immense capital investment is being made in primary
production plants around the world. With this investment will
come new jobs, new technologies, new products, innovation and
new possibilities for mankind;
75 per cent of all aluminium ever produced is still
in use today, equivalent to 540 million tonnes. This percentage
will increase year on year;
Used aluminium is almost 100 per cent recyclableusing
only five per cent of the original power required to produce it,
to recycle it;
If we recycled all the aluminium currently stored
in use around the world, from cans to cars, from foil trays to
aeroplanes, from wine bottle tops to buildings, it would be equivalent
to 15 years primary output;
Recycling from end-of-life aluminium products, currently
saves close to 80 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per
Projections show that global recycled aluminium supply
from end-of-life scrap will double by 2020 from today's level
of 6.8 million tonnes to around 14 million tonnes;
Aluminium is a strategic material and can be regarded
as "stored energy". Over 60 per cent of the aluminium
produced is produced from renewable hydroelectric power;
Aluminium is a truly "sustainable" material,
being cost-effective, strong, lightweight (one-third the weight
of steel), corrosion resistant, flexible in design, and fully
The UK aluminium industry has invested heavily to
encourage the recycling of aluminium used in applications from
packaging to cars;
The current UK recycling rates for the three major
aluminium market sectors are: packaging 32.5 per cent, building
92-98 per cent, and Transport/Automotive 95 per cent;
96 per cent of the aluminium used in the old Wembley
Stadium (over 400 tonnes) was recovered and recycled during the
demolition process. Aluminium is featured extensively in the new
Wembley Stadium for roofing (including the retractable roof),
window frames, curtain walling and exterior cladding;
In the UK we use around 143,000 tonnes of aluminium
packaging each year. The largest part of this is drinks cans,
at around 90,000 tonnes. aluminium foil trays and lids, etc make
up around 25,000 tonnes;
Although aluminium packaging represents less than
one per cent of the domestic waste stream in the UK, it contributes
around 25 per cent of the value from the sale of recyclables.
At around £750 per tonne, aluminium subsidises the cost of
collecting other packaging materials;
Figures published by Defra show that 46,719 tonnes
of aluminium packaging were collected for recycling in 2006, a
17 per cent increase on the previous year. This equates to a recycling
rate of 32.5 per cent for all aluminium packaging. Based on these
figures, the recycling rate for aluminium drinks cans is estimated
to be 48 per cent and foil 10 per cent;
However, in spite of our best efforts, over 90,000
tonnes of aluminium packaging in the UK (worth around £80
million) is still going to landfill.
What role can better design and materials play
in minimising the creation of waste? Are there any barriers to
how knowledge in this area can best be translated and applied?
Aluminium product manufacturers have been at
the cutting edge of design optimisation. This is evidenced in
the widespread use of aluminium in the transportation, packaging
and building industries.
Recycling is probably the most effective way
of reducing waste. It is therefore essential that products are
designed with recycling in mind.
Aluminium is the perfect material for recycling
as it can be recycled again and again without any loss of quality.
Up to 95 per cent of the energy used in primary production is
saved and 97 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions are prevented.
The aluminium drinks can is 100 per cent recyclable
and can be recycled back into a new can with no loss of quality.
The aluminium industry is committed to maximising
recycling performance because it makes good commercial and environmental
Resource efficiency is also an important way
of reducing waste.
Reductions in the gauge of aluminium car bodies
and aluminium packaging are good examples of light-weighting and
energy saving, driven by the aluminium industry.
The aluminium industry works very closely with
the international aerospace industry. Over 70 per cent of the
structure of the Airbus A380, the biggest passenger airliner ever
built, is aluminium.
The gauge of flexible aluminium packaging foil
has been reduced by 33 per cent in the last 15 years from 12 microns
to 8 microns and the weight of the aluminium drink can has been
reduced by 28 per cent in 20 years from 18.6g in 1985 to 12.7g
in 2003. Clearly this has led to a significant reduction in the
amount of aluminium required.
There is always room for improvement and the
education and research and development communities can play a
significant role in leading design optimisation.
What factors influence the use of materials? In
what way do considerations of sustainability feature in the selection
of most commonly used materials?
Traditionally the main influence on the use
of any material has been applicability, ie mechanical and other
physical properties, and cost. Until relatively recently cost
beyond the factory gate was not considered.
Today increasingly, however, the life cycle
costs of materials are being considered.
Sustainability is progressively influencing
the choice of material for a particular application. Supermarkets
are increasingly looking at the environmental performance of the
products and packaging materials they sell. Equally consumers
are beginning to take an interest in the "sustainability"
of the products they buy.
Sustainability is a very complex issue involving
a whole series of different issues, including resource efficiency,
production techniques, energy consumption, carbon emissions, recycling
etc. It can be very misleading to look at a single issue in isolation.
It is very easy for the wrong decisions to be made based upon
incomplete information. We believe that it is essential that standards
are delivered and adhered to, to allow materials to be properly
compared. The work currently being undertaken by The Carbon Trust
and the British Standards Institute (BSI) to develop a protocol
for the measurement of carbon footprints provides an excellent
example. We would encourage Government to ensure that these standards
are adopted by industry.
The average life of an aluminium-bodied car
is 30-40 years, compared to 10-12 years for a car with steel bodywork.
An aluminium car will have a significant recyclable value at the
end of its life.
Aluminium recycling saves energy and reduces
carbon emissions20 times more efficient than landfill.
To what extent do product designers and engineers
take into account the availability and the end of life impacts
of raw materials?
The automotive industry leads the way in this
area, demanding to know that any material specified for a particular
application will be readily available in the long term at a commercially
viable price. Equally, the automotive industry will be driven
(no pun intended) to show that their choice of a particular material
has minimal environmental and energy-related impact. The End of
Life Vehicles Directive will significantly influence this situation.
A number of highly efficient processes are used
to collect and separate aluminium from vehicles.
The use of aluminium in automotive manufacture
by companies such as Jaguar and Audi is increasing year-on-year
by an average of 4 per cent.
More should be done to educate designers and
What impact does the development of new materials
have on design? How much interaction is there between material
scientists and designers?
The aluminium industry provides detailed innovative
technical advice to the international automotive and aerospace
industries and to architects and engineers.
The aluminium foil container manufacturers have
worked closely with microwave oven manufacturers to overcome technical
In the aluminium industry, more interaction
between material scientists, designers and engineers is needed.
Can better designed products offset the increase
There is no doubt that better product design
can contribute to offsetting the increase in consumption. A good
example is the large range of customised drinks can sizes designed
to meet consumer needs more precisely whilst helping to avoid
Aluminium beverage can key facts (1985-2004):
Weight reduction is a crucial part of automotive
design, in which aluminium has a leading role to play.
Are there any other gaps in knowledge and how
are they being addressed?
The UK aluminium industry is a world leader
in recycling technology and technical advances are ongoing through
research and development. Novelis' recycling plant at Warrington
is a state-of-the-art operation producing 1,000 tonnes of metal
every week from drinks cans, foil, aerosol cans, etc.
Members of the Aluminium Alloy Manufacturing
and Recycling Association use state-of-the-art technologyF
E Mottram's de-lacquering plant; Mil-Ver Metals' furnaces, etc.
Does the current policy, regulatory and legal
framework support and incentivise the development of better, more
sustainable products and processes? How is the framework communicated
to businesses and what is the level of awareness and understanding
The successful collection of packaging materials
for recycling is influenced by the Packaging Waste Regulations
and the Landfill Directive. Unfortunately the Landfill Directive
does not encourage Local Authorities to collect lightweight non-biodegradable
packaging like aluminium.
With 99 per cent of used aluminium packaging
arising in the domestic waste stream as small consumer items such
as drinks cans and foil trays, or even smaller pack components
such as chocolate foil, dairy lidding and the barrier layer in
drinks cartons, the industry is almost totally dependant upon
Local Authority-run collection programmes.
For Local Authorities the collection of light-weight
aluminium packaging is not a priority because their targets are
weight-based with strong incentives to divert biodegradable waste.
Aluminium is the only packaging material which has been almost
totally dependant upon recovering material from the domestic waste
stream to achieve its targets.
Despite this, aluminium has an excellent record
of achievement with a recycling rate for all aluminium packaging
of 32.5 per cent in 2006 and an estimated rate of 48 per cent
for aluminium drinks cans. With the exception of glass, aluminium's
recycling performance cannot be compared on a "like for like"
basis with other packaging materials as their achievement is heavily
reliant on cheap and easy to access material from the commercial
Much more needs to be done to reduce the regulatory
burden on British industry.
Whilst the UK's aluminium industry can demonstrate
an impressive performance in areas such as environment, labour
relations, and health and safety, increasing regulatory burden
not matched in less developed parts of the world, means that UK
manufacturing is in steady decline, as production shifts inexorably
How central is sustainable design to business
thinking? What initiatives are in place to encourage this and
are they meeting business needs?
Increasingly consumers and industry are becoming
concerned about helping to combat climate change. There is no
doubt that recycling, saving energy and reducing our carbon impact
are all positive steps which will contribute to achieving a more
sustainable future. The UK aluminium industry is at the forefront
of all these sustainability initiatives. We are continually promoting
sustainable design to our customers.
Companies such as Innoval Technology and Novelis
Automotive are involved in innovation projects in the transport
sector. The most significant project has been the use of aluminium
sheet as an alternative to steel for the mass production of cars,
using conventional pressing and joining technologies.
More than 70 per cent of aluminium castings
are used in the automotive sector. Examples of aluminium castings
produced from recycled alloys include engine cylinder heads, engine
blocks, pistons and gearboxes.
What other measures can promote a focus on waste
reduction among businesses?
Historically the majority of the aluminium drink
cans collected for recycling in the UK have been collected through
kerbside and bring systems. It has proved more difficult to establish
viable systems to encourage the collection of aluminium drinks
cans consumed "away from home". Many of these cans are
consumed in the work place.
It is estimated that around 30 per cent of the
cans sold in the UK are consumed "away from home", equating
to an estimated 30,000 tonnes.
We are optimistic that the new Waste Strategy
for England and Wales, the increasing cost of landfill and the
Pre-treatment of Waste Regulations, should encourage businesses
to establish recycling systems. In addition, working with key
partners, the alminium idustry is currently developing a number
of significant initiatives with the objective of developing sustainable
collection systems to service this key area of opportunity.
The intrinsic value of aluminium encourages
a high level of recyclability and, therefore, waste reduction.
What lessons can business learn from international
The auminium idustry is a global industry dominated
by multinational companies, committed to sharing best practice,
including waste reduction.
The Aluminium Federation works closely with
organisations such as the International Aluminium Institute, the
European Aluminium Association and the Organisation of European
Refiners and Remelters, to achieve that major objective.
What is and should be the role of Government in
addressing the issue of waste reduction?
The UK has around 400 Local Authorities who
are responsible for the collection of waste and recyclables, which
in effect, this has resulted in 400 different collection systems.
This, coupled with the lack of incentives for Local Authorities
to collect lightweight packaging (see Business Framework, above)
makes the maximisation of recycling rates for aluminium packaging
very difficult. Currently, two-thirds of valuable aluminium packaging
is being lost to landfill.
We believe that Government, working with industry,
needs to take a stronger lead and do more to encourage the development
of a properly integrated collection system for recyclables, operated
by Local Authorities. As was highlighted in the Waste Strategy,
we would support the development of carbon-based recycling targets
for Local Authorities.
The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP)
is funded by Government to lead much of its work in the areas
of waste reduction. Whilst WRAP has provided a significant amount
of support, practical and financial, to the plastic and glass
sectors, to date the metals sector has had no direct support.
The aluminium industry has expressed its disappointment directly
to WRAP, Defra and BERR on a number of occasions. There is no
doubt that as a "key material", the support of WRAP
could make a valuable contribution supporting the Industry's programmes
to maximise recycling performance.
How does Government policy link up with European
strategies and action plans?
Two good examples of European legislation in
force affecting the UK aluminium industry are the European Packaging
Waste Directive and the End of Life Vehicles Directive.
In general terms, government policy does link
up with European legislation and strategies.
What lessons can be learnt from other countrieswithin
the EU and globally?
To encourage the recycling of aluminium packaging,
a number of different recycling mechanisms are used worldwide.
They are designed for local market conditions.
The aluminium industry has a worldwide network
of specialist recycling organisations who regularly share best
practice and are in regular dialogue with national governments.
The Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation (Alupro) represents
the aluminium packaging manufacturers, the converters and the
recyclers in the UK. The Aluminium Alloy Manufacturing and Recycling
Association (AAMRA) represents the aluminium secondary refiners
and remelters in the UK (both Alupro and AAMRA are Member Associations
of the Aluminium Federation).
How can better product design be used to effect
a change in consumption patterns and behaviour?
The development of a range of different can
sizes, as described above.
In the 1990's technical advances by the UK aluminium
industry produced a "stay-on" tab for drinks cans which
replaced the traditional ring-pulls, further eliminating waste.
What role do marketing strategies play in influencing
more sustainable design?
The "Power of Aluminium" Awards, sponsored
by ALFED's Aluminium Extruders Association, is an excellent example
of the marketing and promotion of aluminium extrusions in building
and transport applications.
The "Aluminium Imagination" Awards
influenced architects to feature aluminium in iconic buildings
such as the Media Centre at Lords Cricket Ground, the Selfridges
department store in Birmingham, and the new Wembley Stadium.
Major investment, marketing and promotion by
the UK Aluminium Industry increased the recycling rate for aluminium
drinks cans from nil in 1985 to an estimated 48 per cent in 2006.
The Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation
(Alupro) has developed and implemented three consumer campaigns
designed to encourage consumers to recycling aluminium packaging.
Trees have been planted in the UK and Africa for every tonne of
aluminium packaging recycled. The "Trees For Africa"
campaigns have involved 2,000 schools and over 300 Local Authorities
in the UKmore than 100,000 trees have been planted. The
campaign contributed to a 17 per cent increase in the volumes
of aluminium packaging collected for recycling in 2006 compared
to 2007. Currently, Alupro are working in Malawi with the charity
Ripple Africa planting fruit trees and developing sustainable
businesses with local communities.
Are there any gaps in knowledge in this area?
The aluminium industry will continue to invest
in this area, but government funding would be very helpful.
Such funding should be channelled through the
major industry organisations, such as the Aluminium Federation
and the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation.
How is sustainable design integrated into the
The Aluminium Federation has an ongoing lecture
programme at many UK universities, using the European "TALAT"
(Training in Aluminium Application Technologies) teaching material
on CD-ROM. With increased financial resources, ALFED could do
much more in this area.
To what extent are considerations of sustainable
waste reduction part of broader industrial training courses?
Most of the major aluminium organisations in
the UK are involved in education and training programmes, from
primary schools through to universities and professional institutes,
such as the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining.