Aluminum (spelled “aluminium” outside of the United States and Canada), is a highly recyclable metal that is widely recycled across much of the world.
Alongside glass and steel, aluminum is one of the easiest to recycle materials on the planet. According to the Aluminum Association, nearly 75 percent of all aluminum that has ever been produced is still in use to this day; with the majority of aluminum cans that you purchase in a store having already been recycled many times over.
This isn’t to say aluminum is easy to produce. It takes a significant amount of energy to make virgin aluminum. Extracted and refined from mined bauxite ore, producing virgin aluminum is, in the words of Pieterjan Van Uytvanck and Uday Patel in Forbes, a “complicated, costly and energy-intensive,” process, with Van Uytvanck and Patel calculating that it takes an average of 14,000 kWh of electricity to produce just one metric tonne of aluminum.
While the environmental impact of producing aluminum may be significant, the benefits of recycling aluminum are clear. The reason why three-quarters of all aluminum that has ever been produced is still in use to this day is simple; aluminum recycling represents the circular economy at its finest. One of the most widely recycled materials in the world (and among the easiest to recycle), aluminum it is an almost perfect example of a true closed-loop circular solution.
So, what is the aluminum recycling process, and how is aluminum recycled in the first place?