Aluminum Life Cycle

There's nothing unusual about drinking a soft drink or juice from an aluminum beverage can. Enjoying a piece of pie that was baked in an aluminum dish is just as normal. But there is a long history behind these everyday acts.


Analysing the life cycle of a product is a relatively new approach. The analysis looks at everything involved in making the product, from the environmental point of view. Each step in production is studied, from the extraction of raw materials to the final disposal of waste, and the energy and materials required to make the product are quantified. The same approach can be used to identify the impact of a given economic sector on global environmental phenomena such as climate change, as well as to compare the environmental effects of two or more industries — for example, to determine the relative advantages of aluminum and steel, both of which are currently used in automobile manufacturing. Detailed analyses of these two metals have shown that car parts made of aluminum generate 20 times less CO2during their life cycle than steel parts.




Aluminum, an environmentally friendly metal

 Studies of the aluminum life cycle confirm that the industry has made enormous progress in terms of energy efficiency and reducing CO2 emissions. On top of this, aluminum can be recycled a virtually endless number of times.


The electrolytic process for producing aluminum from alumina was discovered by Hall and Héroult in 1886. In Canada, aluminum has been produced industrially for over a hundred years. Potential applications for the metal abound in a variety of areas, given aluminum’s unique combination of useful properties. It is resistant to corrosion in many environments, lightweight, an excellent conductor of heat and electricity, ductile and recyclable. Thanks to these properties, aluminum has a bright future ahead of it!



Aluminum applications

Since the 1960s, global aluminum production has grown by a million tonnes every 20 months. This shows how much the grey metal has become part of our daily lives.


Aluminum has long been used in packaging. Everyday items like beverage cans, pie plates and aluminum foil are tangible proof of the metal’s popularity. The construction industry uses a variety of aluminum alloys, for everything from exterior cladding to building structures. Thanks to its lightness and durability, aluminum is widely used in all segments of the transportation industry — land, sea and air. Indeed, wherever its properties are useful, aluminum will always have its place. The aerospace industry, for example, already uses special aluminum alloys, and aluminum’s ability to conduct heat and electricity are highly appreciated in the electricity and electronics industries.



Aluminum and recycling

Without a doubt, one of the most attractive things about aluminum is its recycling potential. Indeed, everything made of aluminum can be recycled almost indefinitely. This means that products like aluminum beverage cans, pie plates, outdoor furniture and window frames can all have a second or even a third life, following remelting and remanufacturing. The amount of energy required to produce remelt aluminum is reduced by over 90%, with a corresponding reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.


Used aluminum isn’t waste. It’s a valuable raw material that can be used again and again.


The process