Case Studies

These case studies illustrate how Alcoa is acting upon its commitment to sustainable development throughout the world. We are pleased with this progress, but look forward to achieving even more.

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USA - 2013

Aluminum Recycling Facility Cuts Energy Use in Half 

A new US$21 million recycling facility at Alcoa’s Barberton, Ohio, USA, location is cutting in half the energy required to recycle aluminum for forged wheels through process improvements and reduced transportation needs.


The 4,645-square-meter (50,000-square-foot) facility, the first of its kind in North America, remelts chips and solids from the Barberton wheel machining plant and nearby Cleveland, Ohio, forging plant and recycles them into aluminum billet. The billets are then shipped to Alcoa wheel-processing facilities to forge into aluminum wheels. The facility is capable of recycling 45,359 metric tons of scrap aluminum annually, which is enough to make 2 million new Alcoa forged aluminum wheels.


Prior to the facility coming online, the two locations sent scrap chips and solids to a third-party processer that melted them into scrap ingot. This was shipped to Alcoa’s Massena, New York, USA, facility, where it was remelted into ingot that could be used in Alcoa’s production processes. By locating the new recycling facility on the same campus as a production facility and close to a second one, Alcoa reduced the energy required for transportation by 90% and also eliminated related greenhouse gas emissions. The facility also created 30 jobs for the region.


A 25% reduction in process energy use was due mainly to two technological advances. The first comes from a modified melting furnace design compared to a conventional melting furnace/holding furnace concept.


The second process improvement is within the chip-melting process. Because chips are lightweight, they cannot be tossed directly into a charging furnace like heavier solid scrap since they would sit on top of the molten metal and burn off into the atmosphere (known as melt loss). Chips are now placed into a separate furnace compartment, where a vortex pulls them under the molten metal so they can melt efficiently. This process improvement significantly reduces melt loss compared to a conventional process, saving both metal and the energy needed to make it. 


The new facility is part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge, which helps sustainable companies identify innovative energy-efficient solutions for their buildings and plants.