Sustainability of Aluminum | The Aluminum Association

Aluminum Sustainability

Lightweight, Strong & Highly Recyclable

As the United States and the rest of the world strive for a more fuel efficient future, aluminum is a big part of the solution. Lightweight, strong and highly recyclable, value-added aluminum products can lower energy costs and carbon emissions in dozens of applications. Coated aluminum roofs reflect 95 percent of sunlight, dramatically increasing building energy efficiency. Highly recycled and lightweight aluminum packaging reduces shipping costs and carbon emissions for beverage makers. And independent studies have confirmed that aluminum has 20 percent smaller life cycle energy consumption than steel in transportation. From light-weighting to recycling, the aluminum industry is a solution to the world’s energy needs.

In addition, recent technological advances and voluntary environmental efforts mean that aluminum made in North America is more sustainable today than ever before. Energy required to produce new aluminum is down more than a quarter since 1995 and the industry’s carbon footprint is down nearly 40 percent. As Americans rely more and more on recycled aluminum to meet demand, the metal is increasingly the sustainable material of choice. Strong, lightweight and highly recyclable, aluminum is a vital material that keeps the modern world moving. 

A new industry sector snapshot report shows positive environmental impact trendlines for the U.S. aluminum industry on virtually every measure over the past 25 years. The U.S. Aluminum Industry Sector Snapshot report focuses on seven key environmental issue areas –air, energy, greenhouse gas emissions, land management, water, waste and aluminum scrap usage. Read the full report here and find a graphic summary here

Aluminum Production

The North American aluminum industry has made significant strides in recent years to limit the environmental impact of producing primary (new) aluminum.

Aluminum Use

The use of aluminum presents great potential for increasing the sustainable use of energy. For example, aluminum’s light weight contributes to increased fuel efficiency in vehicles ranging from passenger cars to armored tanks. The metal’s 95 percent light-reflectivity contributes cooling efficiencies to “green” buildings and improves the energy production efficiency of solar cells. The aluminum industry is making continuous improvements in the environmental efficiency of producing aluminum through primary and secondary processes.

Aluminum Recycling

Businesses across the United States are furthering their competitive advantage through the use of aluminum—a 100 percent recyclable and sustainable metal. Aluminum’s sustainability is at the forefront of creating competitive business advantages while also providing product development advantages that win business and create jobs.

Sustainability Reports

The North American aluminum industry, through the work of the Aluminum Association, was an early pioneer in developing comprehensive, peer-reviewed research on the environmental impact of material production and use. The aluminum industry supports the life cycle assessment approach to research which tracks the impact of a product in all stages of its life -- from raw material extraction, to production and use, to disposal or recycling.

Sustainability In Action

The aluminum industry recognizes the importance of sustainable business practices. A number of Aluminum Association member companies have specific companywide sustainability programs.

Aluminum in automobiles saves 44 million tons of CO2 emissions.

Independent studies have confirmed that aluminum in automobiles has a 20 percent smaller life cycle CO2 footprint than steel. And compared with steel vehicles, a fleet of aluminum vehicles saves the equivalent of 44 million tons of CO2 emissions. 


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