Global Trends in the Recycled Aluminium Business

Posted By Team MCG On

Aluminium is an infinitely recyclable metal and production of one tonne of recycled aluminium uses only about 5%  of the energy consumed in the production of a similar quantity of primary metal. Greenhouse gas emissions are also vastly lower, thereby making aluminium recycling an environmentally desirable option. The global accumulated inventory of aluminium products is roughly estimated at around 700 to 800 million tonnes and as such, availability of end-of-life scrap will continue to increase over the years.

While the global production of primary aluminium was around 46 million tonnes in 2012, production of recycled aluminium was estimated at 16 million tonnes. Production of recycled aluminium has shifted to the emerging economies and the global aluminium scrap flows from West to East, reflect this trend. Each year millions of tonnes of old and new scrap are recycled and in turn, are converted into castings, flat rolled products and extrusions.

There are around 1,500 aluminium recycling plants worldwide. Automotive scrap and Used Beverage Cans (UBC) offer excellent opportunities for recycling. Recycling systems such as the German Duales System Deutschland (DSD), curb side collection in the US and recycling initiatives in Brazil and Japan have resulted in an effective system of collection, sorting, recovery and recycling of aluminium scrap.

Recycled Aluminium Industry: Process flow

Recycled aluminium industry: Process flow

Asia Pacific region accounts for about 50% of the usage of recycled aluminium followed by Europe at 24% and North America at 18%. Aluminium casting alloys, canstock, de-ox pellets for steel, re-roll slabs and extrusion billets are some of the key outlets for recycled aluminium. The automotive sector is one of the key user segments of aluminium castings and light weighting concept in the passenger cars segment is expected to deepen the usage of aluminium in the transportation sector.

Canstock is another major user segment for recycled aluminium accounting for about 17% of the usage. However, the production of canstock is concentrated in few countries. The growing demand for beverage cans from across the world is expected to in turn drive the demand for aluminium canstock.

The prospects for the recycled aluminium business are very bright and the sector is expected to witness an annual growth rate of 4% to 5% per annum during the coming decade. Most end users, especially in the automotive sector, are now specifically examining the possibility of increasing the usage of recycled aluminium, as it would reduce their carbon foot print. Strong demand for aluminium from emerging markets coupled with higher rates of recycling are expected to contribute to the growth in this sector. A very effective scrap collection system especially in emerging economies will prove to be a major driver to the recycled aluminium industry.