Aluminium is one of the metals that, when recycled, can achieve energy savings of up to 95% compared to the production of the raw material from the ore. That is why, on this occasion, we explain how aluminium recycling is carried out and the importance of giving the material a second life.
How aluminium recycling is carried out
Aluminium recycling leads to the revaluation of the material, as aluminium can be recycled over and over again without losing any of its qualities and properties, resulting in 100% sustainable aluminium. In this way, we are able to conserve natural resources, reduce water and soil pollution, and achieve greater energy savings. In 2019, more than 275,000 tonnes of aluminium were recycled.
The process of obtaining secondary aluminium is quite simple. We explain below each of the steps involved in the recycling of this metal.
Collection, separation and compaction process
Aluminium recycling begins with the collection and classification of the material. As we know, at the individual level, to classify this aluminium waste, it is deposited in the yellow container. When it comes to the industrial level, the most recommended option is lean compacting. This method is based on introducing equipment for compacting solid by-products in the waste management procedures of companies. In this way, all the aluminium material can be sorted, compacted and transported in bales, thus reducing the carbon emissions derived from this process.
Once the bales have been generated, they are transferred to specific recycling plants, so that the material can be treated and recovered. At this point, a second classification is carried out, the bales are shredded and compacted again in the form of slabs, to save space and facilitate their transport.
Once the plates have been formed, they are chemically treated to obtain the purest possible aluminium (as we discussed in the article on types of aluminium, the purest we can obtain is a metal with 99% aluminium).
In this way, all impurities and debris that may interfere with the aluminium recycling process are removed. Once the cleaning is finished, all the pieces are grouped in big blocks to avoid oxidation.
In this step, the aluminium compacted into large blocks in the previous process is melted. There are two different processes here, depending on the type of furnace used. The difference between the two lies in whether or not fluxing salts are used to melt the aluminium scrap. When salts are used, a higher degree of aluminium recovery is obtained, as they reduce the degree of oxidation of the metal during melting. This is because the salts form a molten layer on the aluminium and help prevent oxidation.
After verifying that the liquid aluminium obtained meets the necessary characteristics for its valorisation, it is then shaped into the desired form. Generally, the most common shapes are aluminium billets.
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