The Aluminum Recycling Revolution

Here’s a look at the history of aluminum recycling and what a few companies are doing to take recycling initiatives to the next level.

Many people aren’t familiar with industrial metals like chromium and vanadium, but aluminum is well known because it is used in so many household items.

Known for its low density, lack of toxicity, high thermal conductivity and resistance to corrosion, aluminum is a popular choice for everything from aircraft parts all the way down to doorknobs. Another interesting quality of aluminum is that it is 100 percent recyclable, which makes the metal even more appealing in a world that continues to become increasingly environmentally aware.

Here’s a look at the history of aluminum recycling and what a few companies are doing to take recycling initiatives to the next level.

In the beginning

With environmental concerns adding up, it’s no surprise that many countries are becoming more aware of the amount of waste they produce and in turn are looking for ways to become more “green.”

Luckily, in terms of aluminum recycling, many are ahead of the game. According to the Aluminum Association, nearly 75 percent of all aluminum ever produced is still in use today. Indeed, some initiatives have been in place for years. Those include small-scale initiatives such beverage can recycling, as well as larger-scale movements such as automobile recycling.

Reuse, reduce, recycle

Recently, major companies have started presenting new ways of recycling aluminum. For instance, when Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) released the iPhone 5, its sleek, scratch-resistant aluminum casing was an attractive feature that appealed to the company’s die-hard fans as well as environmentally savvy consumers. The company has emphasized that it uses aluminum for its phones because of its recyclable qualities, and has implemented an iPod and mobile phone recycling program.

Other companies have followed suit, with the new Samsung Galaxy S6 being encased in recyclable aluminum. Samsung Electronics (KRX:005930) has also started its own recycling program to help support the green initiative.

Taking it a step further

One company has decided to take things a step further. Forget recycling aluminum cans and packaging, Novelis has gone ahead and created products made from 100 percent recycled aluminum.

It started out with the evercan™ sheet, which is the world’s first beverage can material guaranteed to contain at least 90 percent recycled aluminum; manufacturers can purchase it to make their own cans. The company then expanded on that and created evercycle™, which is certified to contain 100 percent recycled aluminum made up of 90 percent post-consumer content and 10 percent customer manufacturing scrap.

The future

Given that an impressive 75 percent of aluminum ever produced still remains in use, it’s tough to say how new developments like the ones mentioned above may affect the space in terms of supply and demand fundamentals. That said, given that mining often gets a bad a reputation for environmental infractions, it’s certainly good to see some companies showing that metals can be recycled efficiently and effectively.

Securities Disclosure: I, Kristen Moran, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Related reading:

Aluminum Applications: Cars and Aircraft Manufacturing

The Conversation (0)