The environmental impact of aluminum
A key element to produce aluminum is aluminum oxide. The Hall-Héroult process, an electrolytic process, is used to turn this aluminum oxide into primary aluminum. This has an impact on the environment. Fortunately, the environmental impact can be balanced out by the endless recyclability of aluminum and the energy efficiency during the long lifecycle of aluminum windows and doors.
The ore bauxite contains aluminum oxide. It is available in various tropical and subtropical regions. By surface mining, it is removed from the ground surface. The next step in the production of aluminum is to obtain the aluminum oxide out of the bauxite. Melting the aluminum oxide will release pure aluminum, which will be cast into ingots. This is what we call ‘primary aluminum’.
Improving the carbon footprint from the start
The aluminum industry is constantly focused on improving the carbon footprint of aluminum production. A big part of this carbon footprint is related to the need for electricity in the production process. This need for electricity is a one-off ‘investment’ to produce aluminum: this energy is now ‘embodied’ in the material. The aluminum used in Europe currently has an average of 8.6 kg CO2 per kg aluminum. By using "green electricity", the footprint can drop to 4 kg. This is what we call ‘low carbon primary aluminum’. Most of the low carbon aluminum today is made by electricity from hydropower plants. Innovations ensure that the residual impact can decrease even further. Different manufacturing companies worldwide are working on breakthrough techniques to further reduce the CO2 impact in aluminum production.
Aluminum is a strong, light, and extremely durable material. And 100% recyclable. Unlike many other materials, aluminum does not lose its characteristics in the recycling process. That means you can recycle it endlessly without any loss in quality. Moreover, only 5% of the energy is needed for recycling: 8 tons of CO2 per kg is avoided each recycling cycle. The only limitation today is the availability of scrap material. Due to the long lifecycle of aluminum in many applications, the available aluminum scrap currently covers only 40 percent of the world's demand. This percentage will definitely grow due to, amongst others, the worldwide renovation of buildings. Increasing the recycled content however will not affect the global environmental impact, as all available aluminum scrap is being recycled to the maximum.
Long lifecycle of aluminium windows and doors
Aluminum is extremely durable. It is not affected by UV rays or moisture and doesn’t corrode or rot. These are the main reasons why the material is used in buildings for a very long time. The lifecycle of aluminum windows and doors has an average of over 40 years, but lifecycles of over 60 years are no exceptions.
During these long lifecycles, our solutions contribute to the energy efficiency of the building. Our continuous focus on research and development results in energy-efficient solutions which can be used in low-energy or even energy-neutral homes and buildings. They have excellent insulating and performing properties to reduce the environmental impact of new and existing buildings. Thanks to the high stability of aluminum frames, the large window surfaces allow for abundant solar gains, reducing the need for lighting and heating, and bringing comfort inside the buildings. And last but not least, the low maintenance of aluminum windows and doors avoids additional environmental impacts during their lifecycle.
Improving the environmental impact is a priority of Reynaers Aluminium. We have a clear commitment to sustainable aluminum and our solutions are designed to save energy during their use.
That means investing in:
- Energy-efficient solutions.
- Durable solutions with low maintenance.
- Use of low carbon aluminum.
- End of life recycling of aluminum.
- Future improvements to reduce the carbon footprint of aluminum.
This is our commitment to a greener world for ourselves and the future generation.