Life cycle assessment, which analyzes a product’s environmental impact from cradle to cradle, is the best way to measure the sustainability of our products. We conduct these assessments with other organizations and our customers to provide a holistic view of the impacts and benefits in each product phase—extraction and processing of raw materials through manufacturing, distribution, use, and recycling.
We were the first aluminum company to receive Cradle to Cradle Certification, which is a multi-attribute eco-label that assesses a product’s safety to humans and potential impact on the natural environment. We currently hold Silver certification for our primary aluminum and other aluminum products—forged truck wheels, lithographic sheet, can sheet, bottle stock, and four product lines from our Kawneer architectural systems business.
In Canada, Global Primary Products participated in one of the first life cycle analysis pilot projects in Quebec, l’Empreinte Carbone, to evaluate the GHG emissions related to the production of a pure aluminum ingot in Québec. In addition, with Alcoa Foundation, we provided $350,000 of funding over a three-year period (2011-2013) for the development by École Polytechnique de Montréal of ImpactWorld+, a global model for life cycle impact assessment.
Closing the Material Loop
Aluminum is infinitely recyclable, making it the sustainable choice in many of the markets we serve and a critical component of a circular economy.
Approximately 75% of all primary aluminum ever produced since 1888 is still in productive use due to its strength, product life, and recyclability. Recycling aluminum only uses about 8% of the energy required to make new aluminum ingot and emits 92% less greenhouse gases.
Aluminum used in the transportation, building and construction, and lithographic markets is recycled at rates near or above 90%, while the global recycling rate for aluminum cans is 71%. We connect with both customers and consumers to increase the amount of aluminum that is recycled globally.
As we continue to grow beyond aluminum to offer our customers lightweight, multi-material solutions, we also will develop and implement processes to return valuable metals to the industrial ecosystem at the end of a product’s useful life. This will preserve material value and keep waste to an absolute minimum.