Recycling Aluminum Construction Materials

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In addition to their particularly long service life, aluminum construction industry products can either be used after dismantling or indefinitely recycled, without any loss of the material’s basic qualities and properties.

The use of recycled aluminum also offers substantial energy benefits. Re-melting used aluminum requires only five percent of the energy needed to produce primary metal. Thus, rather than contributing to the world’s growing waste problem, aluminum can be re-melted and reformed to produce new building products.

Why is so much Aluminium recycled?

Aluminum, in general, has always been recycled at a higher rate than most other raw materials. Given the necessary infrastructure, it is possible to recycle all aluminum products used in the construction industry, for several reasons.

First, there is a relatively high level of scrap aluminum available. Second, aluminum has a high scrap value which can contribute significantly towards covering demolition costs. Finally, the infrastructure required for the collection of scrap metals is already well-established and will continue to grow on its economic merit as it has done in the past to provide an increasingly efficient recycling system.

Aluminium Recovery Rates

Nearly 40 percent of all aluminum used today has been re-melted and recycled. However, this does not give a true picture of the recovery ratio that can be achieved in the construction industry, as the durability of aluminum products means the material is unavailable for recycling for many years while it remains in use.

Pretreating Aluminium Connected to Other Scrap

Aluminum scrap collected from construction applications is sometimes attached to other materials, such as resins or foam insulation products. The scrap is pretreated to eliminate such waste. This means that harmful emissions produced by the burning of such waste materials are minimized or avoided, and the purity of the re-melted metal is therefore ensured.

In general, however, aluminum construction products do not need to be protected by organic coatings used to safeguard some alternative materials. Therefore, they offer a source of the metal which can be recycled without any pretreatment.

Separating Aluminium from Other Scrap

Finally, aluminum is easily separated from other metal scrap. To facilitate this operation, the raw scrap is first broken down through cutting or crushing in fragmentation plants. Ferrous scrap can then be removed by magnetic devices, while non-magnetic scrap that differs in density from aluminum can be sorted in heavy liquor separation equipment. Alternatively, aluminum can be separated directly by using eddy current sorting machines.

Energy Efficiency

When their complete life cycle is taken into account, from the production of raw material to the recycling of used parts, aluminum construction products make efficient use of energy and resources. Studies conducted on specific applications have shown that the energy and environmental benefits of aluminum can be substantial. The material’s light weight results in low energy usage during machining, transportation, and handling. The use of aluminum components results in lighter construction, and less material is used when building the foundation.

In extruded components, many design features can be molded into profiles at the production stage without requiring the use of any additional energy. Aluminum’s excellent resistance to corrosion and weathering reduces maintenance and extends the lifetime of the product. The reflectance of the material also offers valuable insulation advantages. Finally, when used parts are recycled, re-melting uses only five per cent of the energy that is required to produce primary metal.

This article was updated on the 19th August, 2019.

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