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All about aluminium recycling

  Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Old rolled aluminium

The aluminium recycling industry is increasingly important to the UK’s economy in terms of manufacturing, protecting the environment, and more. Read on for more detail in this special ASM Metal Recycling guide to aluminium, covering everything you need to know on the subject.

History of aluminium

Did you know that nobody 200 years ago was aware that aluminium existed? This may be hard to believe, considering how aluminium is found practically everywhere today – in cans and other packaging as well as window frames and vehicles.

In fact, aluminium was not isolated until 1825, despite being one of the most common elements found in the earth’s crust. This is because aluminium, in its pure form, is rarely found in nature. An inherently reactive substance, it can usually be found as part of a mixture of substances inside a red-brown ore named bauxite.

In order to retrieve aluminium from bauxite, the ore must be melted with a mineral called cryolite. It is then subjected to an electric current, separating oxygen atoms from the contained aluminium metal.

It is worth noting that this process requires four tonnes of bauxite to produce one tonne of aluminium in trade. This is extremely intensive, in terms of both energy and expense. In comparison, the recycling of aluminium uses only 5% of the energy it takes to produce the primary metal. That’s the greenhouse gas equivalent of removing almost one million vehicles off the road for an entire year!

No wonder, then, that the recycling of aluminium has become so widespread.

The aluminium recycling industry today

Nowadays, aluminium is a well-understood commodity. It can be readily identified by an industry which is fully equipped for its recovery, and which knows the metal’s monetary and manufacturing value.

The metals recycling industry works closely with local councils to ensure the maximum amount of aluminium is recovered from the waste stream and used elsewhere. As a result, it’s now estimated that 75% of all aluminium ever created remains in circulation.

This valuable metal is typically divided into two fundamental types: new aluminium scrap and old aluminium scrap. New aluminium scrap (usually comprised of leftovers from manufacturing and fabrication processes) has an approximated 100% recycling rate, while old aluminium scrap (from previous end-use products like packaging, engineering, building, etc.) is recycled at a 75% rate.

The UK’s aluminium industry is a notable case due to the amount of recycled material produced from salvaged aluminium. The supply of secondary aluminium so far outstrips demand, in fact, that a significant export industry has been established for scrap aluminium – a significant proportion of which is set up for trade with China.

Uses for recycled aluminium

Salvaged and recycled aluminium is utilised in a broad array of products and end-uses.

Some studies, for instance, have shown that aluminium used in building and construction industries is recycled at a rate of roughly 92-98%.

Similarly, aluminium from car bodies and other vehicles is recycled at an estimated 95% rate (a figure bolstered by the EU’s End of Life Vehicles Directive, stipulating that 95% of a vehicle’s weight should be recovered or reused).

The recycling rate for aluminium packaging is 42% – a low number in comparison, yet still in excess of the 40% target stipulated by UK law.

What are the benefits of aluminium recycling?

The most undeniable benefit of recycling aluminium is that it can be recycled an infinite number of times, making it the ideal material for meeting the needs of both demanding industries and those wishing to preserve the wider environment. Aluminium is sometimes reused multiple times over the span of decades.

As well as being infinitely recyclable, aluminium is “wholly recyclable” too – this means the can be melted down and reformed repeatedly without losing any of its material qualities. That’s why it’s alleged that around three quarters of all aluminium produced since the material’s rise, in the late 19th century, is still in use today!

Aluminium recycling is also incredibly energy efficient. Recycling just a single tonne of aluminium saves up to nine tonnes of CO2 emissions that would otherwise be released into the environment. By recycling more aluminium, we can also help avoid the need to mine new bauxite ore which is needed for the production of new aluminium.

In the UK alone, eight billion aluminium cans are sold every year containing beverages such as fizzy drinks and fruit juices as well as food cupboard items. If you consider that all eight billion of these cans could be recycled again and again, you’ll quickly realise just how much energy and raw materials can be saved in the process.

It is said that the entire aluminium recycling process for a beverage can, from being recycled to being ready for re-sale in shops and supermarkets, takes just two months. That means throughout a single year, each aluminium beverage can could be recycled seven or eight times, saving enough energy to manufacture 160 new aluminium cans.

Better still, the impressive structural integrity of aluminium – regardless of how many times it is recycled – means it is a highly suitable material for high-end applications. It’s possible for aluminium previously used as a pleasing façade on a building, for instance, to be reused in a vehicle engine, and with absolutely no decline in the material’s quality.

Aluminium scrap value

As with all scrap metals, the value of aluminium shifts dramatically according to the whims of a global market, fluctuating on a daily basis. This instability can be due to a number of factors, including nationwide supply and demand, as well as your locality (if in an area with a heavy industrial and manufacturing economy, for example).

However, you should know that aluminium scrap is highly sought after and inherently valuable to legitimate scrap metal dealers. These organisations should pay per kg or by the tonne for a wide variety of products: from cans and cabling to radiators, plates and other aluminium-based alloys.

Recycle your aluminium with ASM

At ASM Metal Recycling, we now recycle thousands of tonnes of aluminium, helping to limit the amount of CO2 entering our atmosphere. You can sell ferrous light iron, heavy scrap and cast iron at our sites at Aylesbury, Kings Langley and Totternhoe, in addition to scrap cars.

At our recycling centres, we always offer our customers the most up-to-date prices for aluminium. So, when you give our experienced and friendly team a call, you can be sure you’re getting the best possible price for your scrap metals.

For significant quantities of scrap metals, we also offer a collection service. We’ll send a team of expert professionals to pick up and transport the metals to our approved site, where we use only the latest processing technology to dispose of and recycle your materials. All you have to worry about is receiving payment for your scrap!

Whether you’re a metal merchant, tradesmen or homeowner, do your bit and make a positive impact on the wider environment by recycling your aluminium with ASM Metal Recycling today.

Call us now on 01296 33 77 11 to see how much you could earn from recycling your used aluminium.

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