The effects of climate change are prompting people to change their behaviors and live more sustainably. Organizations and individuals implement practices that help decrease carbon emissions — the leading cause of environmental issues.
Lately, there have been more sustainability initiatives promoting aluminum. Here’s more about this material and why more companies are using it.
Aluminum Offers Many Sustainable Benefits
Aluminum is eco-friendly because it is 100% recyclable. Remarkably, 75% of aluminum ever produced is still in use today. This makes it one of the most recyclable materials in the world. In 2020, 46.7 billion aluminum cans were recycled in the United States, amounting to 45%. That’s 90,000 cans every minute.
In addition to this eco-friendly material being so recyclable, the aluminum industry has reduced greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 59% since 2005. It’s also decreased energy consumption by more than 50% since 1998.
The sector continues to make improvements in terms of sustainability. Since 2012, the North American carbon footprint has decreased 41% thanks to aluminum cans. All these factors make this eco-friendly metal an excellent choice for many organizations.
Aluminum metal cans manufactured in the United States contain 73% recyclable materials. In addition, the carbon footprint of primary aluminum manufacturing has decreased by almost 50% in the last 30 years. The impact of recycled aluminum has been reduced by 60%.
While this metal is utilized mainly for beverage cans, many organizations use it for different purposes. For example, car manufacturers rely on aluminum when designing the frame, engine parts, electrical wiring, paint and body.
Additionally, aluminum is one of the primary materials for building clean energy applications. The metal is lightweight and has excellent corrosion resistance, making it perfect for solar panels.
Why Are More Organizations Adopting Aluminum?
Many companies are switching to aluminum due to consumers’ growing demand for sustainable products and packaging. However, its use is not a new concept. Cans made of this material have been around since the 1960s. Organizations also use aluminum as more than just beverage containers since it’s ideal for packaging and containers.
Additionally, its recyclability is essential in the circular economy, which helps battle climate change and other environmental issues. About 74% of worldwide economic losses were due to the extreme weather conditions caused by climate change. Switching to aluminum enables companies to do their part for the Earth.
A circular economy enables consumers to return aluminum items to manufacturers, which they use to make new cans. These products are then sent to stores and could be back on the shelves within 60 days. Many beverage businesses switched from glass and plastic bottles to this sustainable metal during the pandemic due to the shipping crisis. Lightweight aluminum cans are easy to package, have lower associated costs and are more durable than glass.
In addition, from a sustainability perspective, it makes sense that more companies are deciding to utilize aluminum. These metal cans are easily recyclable and keep their content fresh for extended periods. Also, implementing more sustainable options can benefit companies by strengthening their brand reputation.
About 70% of new beverage products created are in aluminum cans, and more companies are considering switching from plastic bottles.
Benefits of Using Aluminum in the Beverage Sector
Aluminum cans provide many unique advantages compared to other beverage packaging, such as plastic or glass bottles. Here are a few benefits of this eco-friendly material:
- It’s 100% recyclable: Aluminum cans are highly recyclable, and three-quarters of the material ever produced is still in use today. They are recycled faster than PET plastic bottles and produce less greenhouse gases during manufacturing.
- It’s safer for people: Some plastics are recyclable, but they are not recycled at the same rate as aluminum. Additionally, PET plastic can leak dangerous chemicals, posing a health risk to humans. Aluminum cans contain an interior coating that ensures the contents do not come into contact with the material.
- It provides excellent protection: Compared to other beverage packaging, such as glass bottles, aluminum cans don’t break as easily. In addition, they are sealed airtight, which keeps the contents fresher for longer. The material also prevents light from entering, which is vital when storing beer since overexposure can affect the quality.
- It provides versatility: Drink manufacturers can deliver their beverages in different packaging sizes, such as longer and thinner cans. Aluminum presents companies with a 360-degree canvas to advertise their brand.
- It cools down quicker: Aluminum cans have a high heat conductivity, so they cool down faster than glass or plastic bottles.
- It’s cheaper to transport: Aluminum is lighter, which means it costs less to transport than glass and is also more durable.
Benefits of Using Aluminum in the Car Manufacturing Sector
Aluminum also has unique benefits in the car manufacturing sector, such as increased performance. Automakers can use this eco-friendly material to build the body, engine, suspension, transmission, wheels, frame and more. Here are the benefits of aluminum in the automobile industry:
- It provides better fuel efficiency: Aluminum is lighter than steel and offers increased fuel efficiency. Lighter cars also have shorter stopping and duration times. Improved braking can increase vehicle safety.
- It’s more environmentally friendly: Improved fuel consumption means fewer carbon emissions. This makes aluminum vehicles more eco-friendly than those made with steel.
- It’s corrosion and rust-resistant: Aluminum is also corrosion and rust-resistant, meaning the vehicle offers better protection against weather conditions. Cars made with this eco-friendly material fare better against snow and rain than steel would.
- It improves handling: A vehicle made from aluminum is lighter, meaning the driver will have an easier time controlling the car. Handling is also improved due to the high strength-to-weight ratio.
Aluminum Is Becoming the Go-to Choice for Many Industries
Sustainability has impacted consumer purchasing habits. People are trying to limit the amount of carbon emissions they produce and are looking for organizations to do the same.
Considering all the associated benefits aluminum provides, it is easy to understand why more industries are switching. These companies continue to make excellent strides toward sustainability.
While change is never easy, it is often worth the effort to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Wider adoption is likely as more organizations realize aluminum’s advantages.
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine, an online publication that explores innovations in science and technology.