Aluminium can life-cycle study claims major energy and carbon savings

A life-cycle analysis of the aluminium can has shown major reductions in carbon footprint and energy use, according to the aluminium industry.  

The comprehensive study was carried out by consultants PE Americas on behalf of the US-based Aluminum Association, and was peer-reviewed by life-cycle analysis experts from the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry and the EPA, said Steve Larkin, president of the Aluminum Association.

“The data shows that we are using significantly less material and less energy to produce same-size beverage cans as compared with 17 years ago,” he added. “The aluminum industry has made tremendous gains in sustainability. The aluminum can is more sustainable than ever.”

Larkin said that the study showed a reduction in overall carbon footprint of the aluminium can by 44 per cent, 30 per cent less energy usage, a reduction in package weight of 15 per cent, and a total recycled content of 68 per cent, which he claimed was the highest of any beverage packaging material.

The aluminium from an aluminium can, when recycled, can be back on the shelf in as little as 60 days, and 34 cans can be made from just one pound of aluminium, he noted.

Pat Persico, manager of corporate communications for aluminium producer and recycler Novelis and chair of the Aluminum Association’s Can Committee, noted that the aluminium industry's goal is to increase the recycling rate to 75 per cent by 2015, up from its current rate of 54.2 percent.  “Recycled aluminum uses 95 per cent less energy and creates 95 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions than new aluminum,” Persico said.  

The study took in everything from extraction of the bauxite ore to recovering and recycling the used can, Larkin said. He said that it used two methodologies: the recycled content approach demanded by US retailer Walmart, and the closed-loop approach preferred in Europe and elsewhere.

Further information:
www.aluminum.org/lca

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