Recycled Content and its Role in Sustainability

Aluminium has played a significant role in striving towards a greener, more sustainable, and innovative climate solution that continues to prove to be tremendously advantageous to construction industries and customers alike. Recycled content and its role in sustainability should not be underestimated. As a highly durable metal, Aluminium can come in different shapes, qualities and grades based on your requirements, thereby making it an incredibly versatile material to work with.

However, with the attention firmly on circular economies, how does aluminium stack up?

Aluminium Extrusion

All forms of material manipulation require energy to provide light, heat or movement using chemical or physical resources. These resources often come from unsustainable fuel sources (ie. Oil, natural gas, or coal) which produce toxic emissions. A key focus of the last fifteen years has been on sustainability, or how key industry players can make their processes less reliant on fossil fuels, or even use less energy altogether. As such, new, greener forms of energy such as wind, solar or hydropower are fantastic for reducing overall unsustainable emissions.

Aluminium extrusion (the process by which the shape of aluminium is refined) has increased significantly in both the product design and manufacturing industries due to its role in simplifying various processes of construction. Aluminium, which can be extruded to different grades of structure, gives a high strength-to-weight ratio. The extruded aluminium can be up to 70% recycled, which can save more embodied carbon by being designed with another material.

Different grades of aluminium are used for the extrusion process to render varied shapes. Based on the grades we use; we could choose the thickness of the profile of balcony components in various shapes and thicknesses. This process can help to reduce the impact of carbon emissions anywhere up to 44%.

Shortages and Cost

Global demand for aluminium profiles, sheets, and the means to extrude them remain strong into 2022, with many extruders sold out until 2023. The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has increased global demand and forced other countries to increase production, leading to a true scarcity of supply.

As with any mined material, aluminium is a finite resource and intrinsically, a finite recycled pool of aluminium exists. Other industries will also be making extensive use of aluminium (such as the food, computing, and transport industries), so there will often be something of a race to claim this material first. Shortages, both natural and due to the competitive nature of business, mean that the high demand and drastically increased costs have been forecasted by our innovative team to remain high throughout the year.

Hard and Fast Rules

Limiting your opportunities by focusing too heavily on achieving a highly recycled material can be a hurdle for many buyers of extruded aluminium. By restricting your stride, you may end up limiting your supply within the market and slowing your production. Though pricing can fluctuate and change massively, giving yourself a larger range of materials to work with may help you to move your product more effectively.

The importance of recycled content should lie in the weight of CO2 per item, not the percentage of recycled content in the materials themselves. Reducing the total emissions in a product is far more sustainable than increasing the percentage of recycled content used, as the less embodied carbon used by weight will directly impact how sustainable a product can be.

With all this said, your focus may be on reducing your carbon emissions, so using recycled materials could be incredibly beneficial for you. There are no hard and fast rules on what you should or should not do when it comes to the materials you use, but by staying informed on the role of recycled content in sustainability, we can all make greener, more informed, and more viable choices.