The key to a circular economy is planning for a product’s life cycle already at the drawing board, designing products in recyclable materials that last longer and that can be taken apart and recycled when no longer in use.
To show you, we decided to make a chair, with sustainability as the design brief.
Nearly 75% of all aluminum ever produced is still in use
Aluminum is a 100% recyclable material, and producing recycled aluminum requires only 5% of the energy required to produce primary aluminum. Therefore, we need to make sure all our post-consumer aluminum scrap can go back into the loop again and again.
Post-consumer aluminum scrap is like an unlimited energy bank and plays a vital part in the future of the circular economy.
The eternal life of aluminum
Pre-consumer scrap is typically scrap that comes from the production process and has never been used before it is remelted again.
Post-consumer scrap is aluminium that has already lived a “life” – maybe in a window frame or a can – and has now been recycled to be turned into something new. The most CO2-efficient recycled aluminium products are the ones made from post-consumer scrap.
Where does our aluminum come from?
Even an infinite story has a beginning, and aluminum originates from the soil. A reddish mineral called bauxite is extracted and processed before it is refined into a white powder. The alumina powder is then transferred into large tankers and shipped around the world for processing.
Aluminum is one of the most abundant elements on Earth and it is found below the surface in areas around the equator.
The process of extracting it is highly energy-intensive and sometimes alumina is criticized of being unsustainable. However, it is important to look at the full life cycle of a product when calculating its environmental impact. To review the CO2 footprint of a material you need to review the energy required to produce the raw material, the life expectancy of the material in use, maintenance and if the material can be recycled. And summed up, few materials can beat aluminum in terms of sustainability.
Aluminum is also widely appreciated for its durability and strength, making objects that last longer. Its lightness being one of its key characteristics, it makes cars, cell phones and computers lighter. In cars specifically, choosing aluminum saves fuel and reduces the carbon footprint.
In Hydro we work closely with our clients to ensure that the products we make can be recycled. Our goal is that all aluminum is reused for future generations.