Ahead of the UN’s World Environment Day on Monday 5 June when we’re all encouraged to think a bit more about what we can do to help protect the world around us, it’s worth reminding people that aluminium is still one of the most sustainable materials on the planet.
It’s true that it’s very energy intensive to extract usable aluminium from the earth in the first place. But, because the material is 100% recyclable and can be recycled over and over again without losing any of its properties, it actually has impressive green credentials and a surprisingly low carbon footprint.
The vast majority of energy used for the extraction and production of primary aluminium now comes from renewable sources – usually hydroelectric or geothermally generated electricity for the smelting process, which helps to minimise the ‘embodied carbon’.
And, each time that primary aluminium is recycled, the process uses only 5% of the energy that it takes to produce it in the first place. Unsurprisingly, the worldwide aluminium industry is very efficient at recycling – so much so that it’s estimated that around 75% of all the aluminium produced over the past 140+ years (1bn tonnes) is still in circulation today.
In fact, there isn’t currently enough scrap aluminium to keep up with global demand (although there are lots of initiatives to try to increase that), but part of the reason is that aluminium has such a long lifespan.
The inherent strength, durability and corrosion resistance of aluminium windows and doors, for instance, mean that the expected lifespan is 40 years +. And, of course, those windows and doors are designed to make homes more efficient and reduce their impact on the environment as well. (You can read more about the efficiency of aluminium windows here.
The windows and doors you choose might be grey, white, or black (or any of the other AluK colours!) but it’s reassuring to know that they are also green.