The Impact of Aluminum in a Circular Economy

Hydro's new products and processes will increase recycling of post-consumer scrap to 250,000 metric tons per year by 2020, reduce waste to landfill by 60%, and reduce water usage in water-stressed areas by 15%.

From automobiles to packaging to construction, manufacturing processes are evolving to reduce their ecological impact and, in turn, the footprint of final products. However, to strengthen sustainable practices, manufacturers must consider their products’ entire life cycle to make a long-term impact.

As the world’s leading vertically integrated aluminum manufacturer, Sweden-based Hydro recognizes the impact that the use of aluminum can have on emissions and energy usage, both for end customers and ourselves. Hydro has long been committed to building a more sustainable future with our customers and in the communities where we operate.

Recently, Hydro has furthered this vision with several key developments in the manufacturing of primary aluminum. Last year, we launched our state-of-the-art technology pilot at our smelter in Karmøy, Norway. Utilizing in-house electrolysis technology and advanced **artificial intelligence**, the facility is able to produce primary aluminum with the lowest energy consumption and smallest carbon dioxide footprint in the world. After a trial period, the technology will be utilized by our other smelters, as we continue to improve energy efficiency and operational stability.

Image credit: Hydro

Waste not, want not

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At the same time, Hydro also introduced two new grades of extrusion billet (the starting stock for the extrusion process) — Hydro 4.0 and Hydro 75R — that consider both the beginning and end-of-life stages of aluminum:

  • Hydro 4.0 — this billet product is certified to have maximum carbon footprint of 4 kg of CO2 per kg of aluminum. By utilizing hydroelectric power for the smelting process, Hydro 4.0 has the lowest CO2 emissions of any primary aluminum product in the world.

  • Hydro 75R — this billet is made with at least 75 percent post-consumer scrap aluminum. Until recently, this level of recycled content would result in reduced quality or excessive costs. However, with Hydro’s advanced scrap shredding and sorting operation in Dormagen, Germany, the company has been able to introduce a more sustainable resource for manufacturers across many industries, particularly building and construction.

With each new product, Hydro has seen significant adoption rates by customers. The new billet products provide independently certified life cycle data without hindering the quality and performance our customers expect from Hydro products. In addition to the direct customer benefits, these products and processes will increase recycling of post-consumer scrap to 250,000 metric tons per year by 2020, reduce waste to landfill by 60 percent, and reduce water usage in water-stressed areas by 15 percent.

Demand continues to grow for products that meet these specifications, and Hydro believes long-term advantage will develop from investing in a closed-loop system, where products eventually will be recycled. As global industry moves towards a more circular economy, Hydro’s credibility and commitment to a more sustainable future place the company in a leadership role.

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