Major Sustainability Gains for North American Aluminum Industry

Aluminum Industry Life-Cycle Assessment Report

A peer-reviewed life-cycle assessment (LCA) study shows a major decline in energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions for primary aluminum production in the U.S. and Canada. The study covers all life cycle impacts from aluminum production through semi-fabrication. An executive summary, full report and two-page briefing document are available for download below. 

Key Findings

The study shows an enormous amount of energy and emissions savings for the aluminum industry in the US and Canada.

  • Energy demand to produce new (primary) aluminum is down more than a quarter since 1995 and the industry's carbon footprint is down nearly 40 percent.
  • This is equivalent to 37 million barrels of oil saved per year.

Aluminum production in North America is more sustainable today than at any time in history.

  • The industry undertook a voluntary effort with the EPA in 1992 to reduce perfluorocarbon (PFC) emissions. The program was extremely successful and has reduced PFCs by 85 percent.
  • The industry has also improved its technology with computerized process controls to produce aluminum ever more efficiently.
  • We are also using more renewable hydropower than ever before - 75 percent today versus 63 percent in 1991.

Increasing aluminum usage helps off-set many of the environmental impact of aluminum production.

  • Aluminum can improve the fuel efficiency of vehicles through light-weighting, increase energy efficiency in buildings and limit carbon footprint of consumer goods like beverage containers.
  • A 2009 study showed that the light-weighting of passenger vehicles with aluminum off-set fully 92 percent of the industry's overall greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Aluminum roofs reflect up to 95 percent of sunlight, dramatically lowering summertime attic temperatures and, by extension, air conditioning costs.

Increased recycling is another great way to save energy and drive the metal's sustainability advantage.

  • Producing recycled aluminum reduces energy demand by 92 percent compared to making primary aluminum.
  • This means that a 10 percent increase in end-of-life recycling rates decreases primary energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent.
  • Aluminum is an ideal material for recycling because the metal can be recycled over and over again without any loss in quality.

These findings come from a multi-year life-cycle assessment (LCA) study released by the Aluminum Association examining the environmental impact of modern aluminum production. The study reviewed the 2010 production year and incorporates data from 25 companies, representing 95 percent of primary metal production and the majority of the industry in the U.S. and Canada. The full report is available for download below. 

 

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