By Architect Marco Capellini
Despite the fact that aluminium is abundantly present in nature, the first applications on an industrial level began little more than a century ago, when the first components for the transport industry made their appearance (joints for bicycle frames and engine blocks for airplanes), and later, the first tubes for toothpaste and ointments.
Aluminium is light, corrosion-resistant, and easily workable at both high and low temperatures, reflective and non-magnetic. It has excellent mechanical properties and thermal and sound conductivity. Appreciated by industry both for its technical and mechanical characteristics and for its aesthetic values, today aluminium has become a very widely used raw material with a broad range of applications.
Features of the recycling process
Aluminium can be recycled 100% and an infinite amount of times without losing its original characteristics.
Presently, one third of the total consumption of aluminium on a global level consists of recycled or secondary aluminium, obtained by smelting pre-consumer and post-consumer aluminium scrap. In the first case, the scrap is left over from production processes. Post-consumer scrap consists of aluminium products that have reached the end of their useful life. It needs special treatment to eliminate every possible element of contamination, and is then smelted and moulded into bars or cylindrical billetts for the later processes of lamination and extrusion.
Aluminium recycling provides considerable economic and environmental benefits. Because its properties are not downgraded by the recycling process, recycled aluminium results in huge savings both in terms of the cost of extraction of raw materials and the energy necessary for the production of the virgin aluminium. Using recycled aluminium results in 95% energy savings with respect to the amount used to produce primary aluminium products, with obvious reductions in air pollution, CO2 emissions and waste products. Manufacturers have been aware of the benefits of recycling aluminium for many years, and have developed modern and efficient systems for the collection of pre and post-consumer scrap.
Recycled aluminium is used in numerous sectors for a wide variety of applications: transport (auto, bicycles, trains, motor vehicles); household items (coffee makers, small appliances, pots and pans); the construction industry (doors and windows, finishes and joints); packaging (cans, trays, spray cans, film); furniture (tables, chairs, bookshelves, lamps).