One of the postulates of circular economy is to insist on resilient materials which make the products usable as long as possible so as not to create unnecessary waste. For this reason, aluminum has the potential to be the main material for the transition toward circular economy.
Many call it the magic metal, because it is an extremely resilient material which can be recycled without limit while keeping its original characteristics. The process of recycling aluminum requires only 5% of the energy that the production requires, which results in a considerable reduction of the emission of carbon-dioxide.
Turning old aluminum into a new raw material is a market worth EUR 3 billion. But, as the European Aluminum projects, the market could be worth EUR 12 billion by 2050. In order for this to come true, this organization, founded nearly four decades ago in Brussels, recently adopted the Action Plan for Circular Aluminum. The aim of the plan, according to the director general, Gerd Goetz, is to reach the full potential of aluminum's usability by 2030.
– We will not stop until we achieve this. Our Action Plan provides the road map for European decision-makers and aluminum industry in Europe – Gerd Goetz points out.
Today, of the total amount of aluminum as a raw material in the market, recycled aluminum accounts for 36%. However, that percentage could grow to 50% if certain criteria are met. Among the recommendations is the implementation of the principle of design for recycling, which means that what happens with the product at the end of the production cycle is considered in advance. Also, the authorities and companies which manage waste should invest more in modern waste sorting systems.
Aluminum is used in transport, especially in the automotive industry, and then also in the construction industry, for facades, windows, doors and in the packaging industry. It is estimated that, in 2030, 16 million tons aluminum will be in use, and in 2050, 18 million tons. The projected growth of the demand is expected because aluminum will be increasingly used as an alternative to other materials, such as steel, plastic, or PVC.