Since the turn of the century, aluminum consumption has more than doubled, and demand continues to steadily rise. Globally, aluminum is experiencing the highest growth in demand of any metal. However, considering how prominent it has become in our lives, is aluminum sustainable?
The short answer is yes—one of the biggest reasons manufacturers, retailers, and consumers keep turning to aluminum is because of its sustainability. As companies prioritize sustainability more and more, aluminum stands out as a uniquely environmentally-friendly material choice for applications ranging from consumer products and cars to construction.
When you choose aluminum—especially recycled or remnant aluminum—for a metalworking project, you’re helping the Earth by using a material that’s infinitely recyclable and helps us meet our climate and emissions goals. Here, we’ll discuss what makes aluminum a sustainable material choice that can make your metalworking operations greener and save you money.
Is Aluminum Sustainable?
Did you know that 75% of all the aluminum that has ever been made is still in use? That astounding number is possible because, unlike some metals, aluminum can be recycled over and over again.
Lots of materials are recyclable, but that doesn’t mean much unless they’re actually recycled. For materials like rare earth metals and precious metals, the recycling process can be so expensive and complicated that it’s just not worth the trouble for many businesses and consumers. Aluminum, on the other hand, has a thriving recycling industry that makes it easy and inexpensive to recycle, only taking about 5% of the energy used to make new aluminum.
Even new aluminum production is reasonably sustainable. American aluminum production is less than half as carbon-intensive as it was 30 years ago, thanks to the growth of renewable hydropower.
So, is aluminum sustainable? Well, it’s certainly recyclable, which is a large part of sustainability. However, aluminum has additional characteristics that make it one of the most sustainable, environmentally-friendly metals available.
Aluminum Is Long-Lasting, Lightweight, and Green
Recycling is the biggest reason we can still use the majority of all the aluminum ever produced—but that’s not where its sustainability advantages end.
Not only is aluminum easily recyclable, but it’s also very durable and corrosion-resistant. Parts and products made from high-quality aluminum alloys can last for decades, even in extreme conditions. While wood rots and steel eventually rusts, aluminum structural components can withstand a wide range of harsh and corrosive conditions without ever degrading or needing to be replaced.
Aluminum’s remarkably low weight is another quality that makes it a greener option than other metals. Aluminum weighs about a third as much as steel, but its strength is nearly equal. This is one of the biggest reasons it’s used in automotive and airframe production—less weight means better fuel efficiency and fewer emissions. Aluminum makes even simple items like canned soda lighter and easier to ship than other types of packaging.
Your Local Supplier of Sustainable Aluminum
Industrial Metal Service specializes in offering high-quality aluminum remnants and new metals of all kinds to fabricators and machine shops in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. Our vast inventory also includes carbon and stainless steel, titanium, copper, angle iron, and specialty metals like Invar 36 and Hastelloy. Whatever your material needs, our cutting-edge metal saw can precision-cut billets to any size you need to maximize your savings.
While aluminum is sustainable, there are ways to make it (and other metals) even more sustainable. Aluminum or other metal remnants (pieces of quality material left over from large manufacturing operations) offer a truly sustainable material source. The material properties of these remnants are unchanged, but they’re just too small for the original manufacturer to use. That means you can get them at a deep discount before they’re thrown away or recycled.