Aluminum Metal Recovered
Aluminum Metal Recovered
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Global Aluminum Flow in 2011
  Global Aluminum Flow in 2011
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Aluminum, Our Miracle Metal
Aluminum, Our Miracle Metal
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It All Starts with Dirt
It All Starts with Dirt
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Alcoa Recycling
Alcoa Recycling
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Efficiently Using Earth’s Resources

 

Alcoa is the most fully integrated aluminum company in the world and also one of the largest. We have the capability to extract raw materials, process them into aluminum, convert the metal into end-use products, or sell them to others for further processing. We also recycle aluminum products at the end of their useful life.

Mining Bauxite in Australia

Mining bauxite in Australia

The aluminum-making process begins with the mining of bauxite. We convert the bauxite to aluminum oxide and then to aluminum through processes that use fuels, caustic soda, lime, petroleum coke, coal tar pitch, aluminum fluoride, other chemicals, and water. We also mine coal and use fossil fuels and hydroelectric facilities to produce electrical energy, which is a major component of the electrolytic process required to produce aluminum metal from aluminum oxide.

 

The basic process requires approximately 5.5 metric tons of bauxite to produce two metric tons of aluminum oxide, which, in combination with one-half metric ton of carbon, can produce one metric ton of aluminum metal. (Note: The average metric tons of bauxite required to produce one metric ton of aluminum has changed over the last decade in the aluminum industry due to significant increases in mining bauxite with lower aluminum oxide content, especially in Australia, China, and Russia.)

 

Once produced, aluminum can be used for a wide variety of products. Because it does not rust, decay, or lose its quality, it can be recycled repeatedly without loss of properties.

 

We are aware of the importance of material flows throughout the economies of the world. We also recognize the need to make efficient use of all raw materials and natural assets consistent with resource-efficiency initiatives being developed by the European Union and others.

 

In conjunction with the International Aluminium Institute (IAI), we developed and update annually a materials flow analysis to improve understanding of global aluminum production; aluminum flows and inventories in customer and consumer products; and recycling loops.

 

For instance, statistical data entered into the model suggests that almost 75% of primary aluminum ever produced is still in productive use in transport, packaging, buildings, and other applications. For a more in-depth discussion, please read "Modelling More Sustainable Aluminum."

 

Global Aluminum Flow in 2011
Global Aluminum Flow in 2011

Source: International Aluminium Institute

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In 2012, we continued to work with IAI, regional associates, Yale University, and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology to better understand current and future aluminum industry mass flows and ecological implications.

 

We believe that material flow can have financial, environmental, and social implications, and we continue our work to make all of our processes as efficient as possible.

 



  Power Generation Bauxite Extraction Alumina Refining Primary Smelting Processing
Major Inputs Hydro
Fossil fuels
Land Bauxite ore
Caustic
Water
Lime
Natural gas
Alumina
Carbon
Fluoride
Aluminum
   ingot
Acids
Caustic
Water
Coatings/paint
Oils
Major Outputs Carbon
   dioxide
Nitrogen
   oxides
Sulfur dioxide
Particulate
   emissions
Combustion
   ash
Overburden
Vegetation
   waste
Dust
Noise
Stormwater
   runoff/erosion
Bauxite
   residue
Particulate
   emissions
Carbon
   dioxide
Sulfur dioxide
Mercury
Spent pot
   lining
Fluorides
Particulate
   emissions
Carbon
   dioxide
Carbon
   monoxide
Sulfur dioxide
Aluminum
   dross/skim
Oily wastes
Volatile organic
   compounds
Wastewater
Wastewater
   sludges
Mitigation Measures Mitigation of by-product outputs is typically achieved through a range of measures that include process controls, technological solutions, recycling, waste minimization programs, conversion of waste materials into either inert or useful products, and controlled discharges. Alone or in combination, these measures are designed to ensure that Alcoa manufacturing facilities meet local regulatory environmental quality standards or Alcoa internal standards if the latter are more stringent.
 
Waste Materials Used

We use waste materials as raw materials in our processes where technically and economically feasible.

 

What is essentially a waste product from the petroleum refining industry—petroleum coke—we use as a raw material to form the anodes that are essential for our electrolytic process. We also purchase coal tar pitch, a by-product of the steel industry, as the binder for our anodes. We believe that these forms of “industrial ecology” are an important component of a sustainable business economy.


Scrap Use

Recycled metal from products like used beverage cans, end-of-life vehicles, demolished buildings, and discarded consumer products continues to be an important source for our basic material, and its importance will keep growing. In 2012, we purchased and recycled 615,000 metric tons of aluminum scrap.

 

Please see the Recycling section for additional information.

 

Aluminum Metal Recovered from Purchased Scrap
Thousands of metric tons