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Faculty of Technology and Bionics

Applied Research Project

WS 2017
Supervisor: Prof.Dr Marie Louise Klotz

IMPORTANCE AND SUSTAINABILITY OF ALUMINIUM


RECYCLING

Applied Research Project submitted in partial fulfillment of

M.Sc Mechanical Engineering

Submitted by:

HARIS AHMED
Matriculation no: 20799

21-02-2018
Contents
................................................................................................................................................. 1

LIST OF FIGURES ........................................................................................................................ 4

LIST OF TABLE ............................................................................................................................ 5

ABBREVATIONS .......................................................................................................................... 5

Abstract ........................................................................................................................................... 7

1. Introduction ................................................................................................................................. 8

2.History.......................................................................................................................................... 9

2.1Primary Aluminium Production Steps ................................................................................. 11

2.1.1 Bauxite Mining................................................................................................................. 11

2.1.2 Alumina Refining (Bayer process) ............................................................................... 12

2.1.3 Smelting (Hall-Heroult Electrolysis process) .............................................................. 12

2.1.4 Casting ......................................................................................................................... 13

3.Secondary Aluminium Production ............................................................................................. 13

3.1 Secondary Aluminium Production Steps ............................................................................ 13

3.1.1 Scrap Pretreatment or Aluminium Sources ................................................................. 13

3.1.2 Cleaning ........................................................................................................................ 14

3.1.3 Melting.......................................................................................................................... 14

3.1.4 Refining ........................................................................................................................ 14

4. Factors to consider for Aluminum Recycling ........................................................................... 15

5.0 Advantages and Challenges of Aluminium Recycling ........................................................... 16

5.1 Advantages of Recycling .................................................................................................... 16

5.1.1 Energy savings .............................................................................................................. 16

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5.1.2 Reduction in Waste disposal........................................................................................ 16

5.1.3 Reduction in Emissions ............................................................................................... 17

5.1.4 Reduction in Cost ........................................................................................................ 17

5.1.5 Conservation of Resources .......................................................................................... 17

5.2 Challenges during Recycling ............................................................................................. 17

5.2.1: Managing adequate Supply ......................................................................................... 17

5.2.2 Melt Loss ..................................................................................................................... 18

5.2.3 Accumulation of Impurities ......................................................................................... 18

6. Scrap collection ......................................................................................................................... 18

6.1 New Scrap ........................................................................................................................... 18

6.2 Old Scrap ............................................................................................................................ 19

6.2.1 Complexity in Recycling ............................................................................................. 19

6.2.2 Urbanization .................................................................Error! Bookmark not defined.

6.2.3 Government policies and awareness............................................................................ 20

6.2.4 Industrial Policies ........................................................................................................ 20

7. Scrap Separation methods and technologies ............................................................................ 20

7.1 Air separation Method ........................................................................................................ 20

7.2 Magnetic Separation Method ............................................................................................. 20

7.3 Eddy Current Separator ...................................................................................................... 21

7.4 Manual Sorting or Color Sorting........................................................................................ 21

8.0 Sustainability ( Definition) .................................................................................................... 22

9.0 Life Cycle Analysis................................................................................................................ 24

9.1 Life Cycle Analysis Process Step....................................................................................... 25

9.1.1 Goals and Scope .......................................................................................................... 25

9.1.2 Life Cycle Inventory Analysis ..................................................................................... 26

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9.1.3 Life Cycle Impact Assessment and Implementation ................................................... 26

9.1.4 Improvement Analysis and Interpretation ................................................................... 27

9.2 Case study of Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) ......................................................................... 27

9.3 Main Results of the Analysis ............................................................................................. 29

9.3.1 Secondary Aluminium Engine block ........................................................................... 33

10. Future Predictions of Aluminium ........................................................................................... 34

11. Conclusion ............................................................................................................................. 35

LIST OF FIGURES

Figure 1: A figure showing the Primary Aluminium Production and Recycling Process[5] ....... 11
Figure 2: Image of Bauxite Ore[6]................................................................................................ 11
Figure 3: Figure explaining the electrolysis process of Aluminium[8] ........................................ 12
Figure 4: A pie chart showing the distribution of Energy consumption in Primary Aluminium
Production[9] ................................................................................................................................ 13
Figure 5: A pie chart showing the distribution of Energy consumption in Secondary Aluminium
production[9]................................................................................................................................. 15
Figure 6: A graph explaining the trend of Aluminium Can recycling rate[11] ............................ 16
Figure 7 A figure showing the mechanism of Eddy current separator with particles thrown away
on distance(in blue) being the non Ferrous chips[20] ................................................................... 21
Figure 8:Image of Manual Sorting[21] ......................................................................................... 22
Figure 9: A figure showing factors of Sustainability[25] ............................................................. 23
Figure 10: A figure stating the Factors considered in Life Cycle Analysis Approach[26] .......... 25
Figure 11: System boundary of a Life Cycle Inventory Analysis of a product[26] ..................... 26
Figure 12: Stages in motor vehicle life cycle assessment [29] ..................................................... 28
Figure 13: System boundaries of Vehicle Life Cycle Analysis(LCA)[29]................................... 28
Figure 14: SIMAPRO LCA analysis showing the comparison between the values of the Eco
Indicator of the Cast Iron and Aluminium Engine block[30] ....................................................... 30

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Figure 15: Eco Indicator values of the processes involved in production of Cast Iron Engine
Block[30] ...................................................................................................................................... 31
Figure 16:Eco Indicator values of the processes involved in the Primary Aluminium Engine
block[30] ....................................................................................................................................... 31
Figure 17:Graph showing relationship between Ration of Secondary Aluminium used and Eco
Indicator ........................................................................................................................................ 34
Figure 18: Share of Primary and Secondary Aluminium produced over the years[13]................ 35

LIST OF TABLE

Table 1: Properties of Aluminium .................................................................................................. 9


Table 2: Eco Indicator Values for different ratios of Secondary Aluminium[30] ........................ 33

LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS

SAP….Secondary Aluminium Production

LCA….Life Cycle Analysis

Na….Sodium

K….Potassium

NaOH….Sodium Hydroxide

GHG….Green House Gas

Al….Aluminium

AlCl3….Aluminium Chloride

Al2O3….Aluminium Oxide
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R&D….Research and Development

MJ….Mega Joules

kWh….Kilo Watt per hour

Mg….Magnesium

Si….Silicon

Fe….Iron

Cu....Copper

DC....Direct Current

NdFeB….Neodymium

EJ….Exa Joules

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Abstract
This report deals with the study of one of the growing industries in current era, that is Secondary
Aluminium Production (SAP) which is also known as Aluminium Recycling. The main focus of
this paper is the discussion of the Aluminium Recycling industry in detail , comparison between
Primary and Secondary Aluminium production, the study of the methods involved in recycling,
the huge energy savings and environmental benefits which are the core reasons for Recycling, Life
cycle assessment or cradle to death approach which is an important tool in Recycling. The
understanding of concept of sustainability to be used in Aluminium Production. Later on we will
address the limitations and issues faced in Secondary Aluminium Production (SAP) and afterwards
we will discuss the future predictions of Secondary Aluminium Production Industry.

Keywords: Aluminum Recycling, Energy, Life cycle Assessment, Environment, Ecology,


Sustainability , System Boundary

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IMPORTANCE AND SUSTAINABILITY OF ALUMINIUM RECYCLING

1. Introduction
Aluminum is known as the third largest element in the earth crust. Its physical and material
properties for e.g. corrosion resistance, Lightweight, Ductile, highly elastic, good conductor of
heat and electricity makes it reliable to be used in many applications and plays pivotal role in many
industries. The world demand for Aluminum which includes Primary and Secondary has risen by
5.8% in 2017 to 82.5 million metric tons [1]. Due to recent trends of light weight vehicles in motor
industry, rapid growth of cities with increasing World population, use of Aluminum as substitute
of Copper in power industry the demand of Aluminium is expected to rise at an exponential rate.

The Primary Aluminium Production process is not only highly energy intensive process but as
well as Green-House-Gas(GHG) emitting process which is responsible for about 1% of global
emissions. This process consists of Aluminium refining and Aluminium smelting which consumes
3.1 EJ, which is about 8% of electricity which is used in global industry [1]. It consists of bauxite
(Al2O3) ore conversion to aluminium which produces a lot of waste and is not energy efficient. It
is said that 4 to 6 tons of bauxite are required to produce 1 ton of aluminium which is around 15%
to 20% aluminium. Currently 29 billion metric tons of bauxite is available and if we continue its
consumption at the current rate then in 100 years It will be finished.[2]

Secondary Aluminium Production requires only around 5% to 10% of the energy used in Primary
production. Aluminium specialty is that it can be recycled unlimited times without loss in its
properties. Majority of the industries are focusing on consuming Recycled aluminium because now
the industries are trending towards Green Energy consumption. Secondary Aluminium production
has environmental and economic benefits. Compared to other materials, the energy difference for
primary and secondary aluminium production is highest i.e. 186 MJ/kg for primary compared to
10-20MJ/kg for secondary [3] . A lot of work is being done to improve Aluminium recycling
technologies and to overcome the limitations. Recycled aluminium usage is expected to increase
and it is important to increase its production. Along with less energy cost, aluminium recycling is
gaining popularity because it can be recycled number of times without loss in quality.

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This study aims to provide a detailed analysis of the Aluminium recycling industry.. We will study
what are steps involved in Aluminium recycling by using life cycle analysis tool. In addition to
that, we will discuss the potential of this industry for Energy savings and Carbon footprint
reduction which are the main reasons for promotion of this industry. We will also try to find the
current issues this industry is facing, for e.g. the removal of alloying elements from scrap, loss of
metal during re-melting.
Aluminium Properties
 Corrosion Resistant
 Easy to form and Process
 Strong and Light
 Good Reflective
Qualities
 Good Conductivity
 Non Toxic and Odorless
 Non Combustible
 Easy to recycle number
of times
Table 1: Properties of Aluminium

2. History
Aluminium (Al) was discovered in 1825 by Hans Christian Oersted in Copenhagen, Denmark. He
did it by heating Aluminium Chloride (AlCl3) with Potassium (K) . But his sample was impure.
Afterwards it was a German chemist Friedrich Wohler who found the perfect method to obtain
Aluminium by using Sodium (Na) instead of Potassium (K) .[4]

Industrial large scale production of Aluminium is hardly a century old. The demand for Aluminium
increased rapidly after World War II due to rebuilding of destroyed roads, buildings and
infrastructure.

In today’s world, Aluminium is used in a large variety of products. It can be found in cans, Kitchen
utensils, power supply cables, automotive, foils or aerospace. It is because of the fantastic qualities
that it is used in almost every industry. It has a low density, high conductivity, non- toxic, corrosion
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resistant, soft, malleable and ductile. It is also popular because of its appearance which is Silvery-
White.

Aluminium can be produced from two sources, bauxite and scrap. Primary Aluminium
Production uses Bauxite ore as raw material while Secondary Aluminium Production consumes
Aluminium Scrap. Previously there has been a lot of study and research on the Primary Aluminium
Production because only source of Aluminium available was Bauxite, which is a mineral
consisting of hydrous Aluminium oxides (Al2O3). Aluminium is recovered from a process called
Bayer Process which will be explained in detail later. On the other hand, in recent times a large
supply of Aluminium from another source called Aluminium Scrap is recovered. This source is
the aluminium scrap which is recovered from Industrial waste and Post-consumed Aluminium
items. In recent times there has been an increase in studying and improving the efficiency of
Recycling methods. Financial and Academic resources are being invested in R&D for making the
Secondary Aluminium Production or Recycling more energy and time efficient, decreasing cost
and increasing recovery and profits. The methods used for Aluminium recycling is different from
Primary Aluminium Production and it has its own limitations and difficulties. The process and
steps will be discussed in detail later. The process involved in both will be discussed further.

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Figure 1: A figure showing the Primary Aluminium Production and Recycling Process[5]

2.1Primary Aluminium Production Steps


2.1.1 Bauxite Mining
Bauxite ore is usually mined in opened pits. Every year million tons of bauxite is excavated from
Bauxite rich areas like Brazil, Jamaica, Australia and India. Bauxite ore usually consists of around
40-50% aluminium oxide. Main Energy use is the fuel used by excavating equipment. American
aluminium industry gives an estimated energy use of 216MJ/ton bauxite[1]

Figure 2: Image of Bauxite Ore[6]

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2.1.2 Alumina Refining (Bayer process)
This process involves extraction of alumina from Bauxite ore by a process called Bayer’s process.
In this process, Bauxite is treated with chemicals i.e. NaOH solution and carbon dioxide (CO2)
bubbles and afterwards heated at high temperature. The end products obtained are Alumina and
Red mud. This process consumes around 27% of energy [1].

2.1.3 Smelting (Hall-Heroult Electrolysis process)


This is the most energy intensive process. This process takes place in an electrolytic cell consisting
of anode and the cathode. DC current is the main energy source. In this process Alumina (Al2O3)
is reduced to Aluminium with 99.7% purity. Around 80% of the electricity used in primary
production is used in this process that’s why it is called energy intensive. On average, each ton of
aluminium metal consumes 1.9 tons of alumina, 437kg of carbon anode and 15,300 kWh of
electricity.[7]

Figure 3: Figure explaining the electrolysis process of Aluminium[8]

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2.1.4 Casting
After smelting, molten aluminium is alloyed with elements such as magnesium, zinc, silicon to
increase the strength. The aluminium is then poured into a mold. The final product after casting is
primary Aluminium ingot.

Figure 4: A pie chart showing the distribution of Energy consumption in Primary Aluminium Production[9]

3. Secondary Aluminium Production


The raw material in secondary Aluminium production is aluminium containing scrap. During
1980s the production remained constant , however during last 15 years its demand has increased
because of demand for aluminium by automotive industry doubled. Recycling a ton of aluminium
requires only 5% of the energy required for refining a ton of bauxite. So it is viable in terms of
cost and energy.

3.1 Secondary Aluminium Production Steps


3.1.1 Scrap Pretreatment or Aluminium Sources
The SCRAP which is the raw material for this process can be defined in to two categories i.e. new
scrap and Old scrap. New scrap is generated by pre-consuming processes such as drilling,
machining, casting, machining operations or the aluminium skimmed off during smelting process.
Its properties are close to the original aluminium. Old scrap is collected after being consumed for

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e.g. Cans, automobiles, buildings etc. Its properties are not close to the pure Aluminium and it
requires some processes to become pure. Details of scrap will be mentioned later.

3.1.2 Cleaning
In this process, cleaning of the scrap is done. The cleaning can be categorized in to further three
methods which are Mechanical cleaning, Pyro-metallurgical cleaning and hydrometallurgical
cleaning. Mechanical cleaning includes physical separation of Aluminium from the scrap with
hand, hammer mills and ring rushers. In Pyro-Metallurgical cleaning, heat is used to separate
aluminium from contaminates and other materials. It is usually used for aluminium containing
organic products. Aluminium is heated to a high temperature but below its melting point (660C)
so that organic products can be removed by vaporization and evaporation. This process is also
called Roasting. Pyro-Metallurgical process also contains another process called swatting. In this
aluminium scrap combined with other metal scrap is heated to the melting point of Aluminium so
that aluminium gets melt and is separated. [10] .Hydro-Metallurgical cleaning use water to clean
and process Aluminium scrap. First, a raw material is fed into rotating drum where water soluble
impurities are absorbed and removed in waste water. Afterwards, the remaining washed material
is screened. That material is first dried and then it is passed through a magnetic separator to remove
ferrous materials. [10]

3.1.3 Melting
Melting furnace supplies energy by using fuel and raises the temperature of the aluminium to its
melting point.

3.1.4 Refining
Refining process is the process of maintaining alloy composition within required limits. It further
consists of the following steps: fluxing, demagging, degassing, alloying, skimming and pouring.
Purpose of fluxing is to minimize oxidation of melted aluminium. After melting, flux material
combine with contaminates and float to the top and traps the impurities. Demagging reduces the
magnesium content in the molted aluminium from 0.5 to 0.1 percent. Degassing is the process to
remove gases in the melted aluminium. Then comes alloying which is a very important feature. In
this aluminium is combined with alloying agents to change the strength and ductility to the suitable

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requirements. Alloying agents consists of zinc, copper, magnesium and silicon. Alloying continues
until the correct alloy composition is achieved.

Skimming operation removes contaminated flux physically for e.g. dross, skimming etc. [10].
After skimming the melt is allowed to cooled, so that it can be poured in to the casting.

Figure 5: A pie chart showing the distribution of Energy consumption in Secondary Aluminium production[9]

4. Factors to consider for Aluminum Recycling


The efficient and successful recycling depends upon the following conditions:

 A plentiful and constant supply of Aluminium scrap, which is available in same area due
to which cost of transportation and collection is minimized.
 Availability of an infrastructure for collection of scrap metal, removal of impurities and
the resources available to deliver it to a nearby recycling facility.
 A method for recycling which is economically feasible and competitive compared to
Primary Aluminium production method.
 Market availability for Aluminium recycled products.

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Figure 6: A graph explaining the trend of Aluminium Can recycling rate[11]

5.0 Advantages and Challenges of Aluminium Recycling


In this section we will discuss the advantages we get and the challenges we face during Aluminium
recycling.

5.1 Advantages of Recycling


5.1.1 Energy savings
The main reason for recycling is that it consumes around 90 to 95% less energy compared to
Primary production. This can be proven by numbers that 186MJ/kg of energy is required for
Primary production and 10-20MJ/kg of energy is required for Secondary Aluminium production
[3]

5.1.2 Reduction in Waste disposal


Solid waste is generated during each cycle of Primary Aluminium production. The majority
consists of mine waste and the red mud residue. Aluminium recycling also produces waste but the

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amount is quite low compared to Primary Aluminium Production. Aluminium recycling reduces
waste production for about 100kg per ton of the metal which is produced.[12]

5.1.3 Reduction in Emissions


Another issue with Primary Aluminium production is the emissions of hazardous gases for e.g.
fluorides, Sulphur dioxides, Carbon-dioxides. At present, Aluminium industry is responsible for
1% of the manmade Green House Gas effects.[13] The amount of CO2 and other emissions reduce
by 90% during Aluminium recycling.[14]

5.1.4 Reduction in Cost


Primary Aluminium Production involves methods such as Mining process, Bayer process,
Electrolysis to extract Aluminium from Alumina. These processes are complex and costly. On the
other hand the equipment used for recycling is less complex and cheap. It is estimated that cost
reduction is around 80%.

5.1.5 Conservation of Resources


Aluminium is an element which is available in limited quantity in Earth’s crust. If we will keep
using it at the same rate then may be after 100 or more years it will be finished. By recycling we
can save it.

5.2 Challenges during Recycling


The challenges faced in Recycling industry are as follows:

5.2.1: Managing adequate Supply


There are two types of scrap i.e. Old and New. New scrap consist of left over from the industry
during manufacturing, machining etc. They are easier to collect. The problem with the old scrap is
that it is not limited to a single place but it is spread. As a result, its collection is a problem. So
managing an efficient collection system for a smooth supply is a big challenge.

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5.2.2 Melt Loss
One of the problem faced during recycling by conventional method is the melt loss during the
melting step. The recovery achieved after melting is only about 40% of the original amount[15].
It is also because of the low density of the chips, which leads towards oxidation. These metal losses
causes increased cost for labor, energy and the expenditure for the methods used for environmental
protection. So this leads to increase in cost and decrease in profits.

5.2.3 Accumulation of Impurities

During recycling, the presence of unwanted elements is a problem which effects the quality of the
recycled Aluminium. Elements such as Mg, Si, Ni, Fe, Cu etc. are found in the melt which are
difficult to remove. It has been proven that the removal of elements is difficult from Aluminium
due to its thermodynamic limitations. Methods have been developed to deal with this problem but
it depends upon the balance one maintain between cost and quality. The most common method is
the dilution with the Primary Aluminium but it has a negative impact on recycling.
Down Cycling is another available method where aluminium is recycled into lower quality
products. This method allows increased usage of recycled Aluminium but also causes negative
economic effects. The presence of organic material for e.g. Paint, Oil also causes increased carbon
input in Aluminium recycling which is a drawback in terms of the environment protection.[16]

6. Scrap collection
Scrap collection and process is an important step in the recycling process. As already mentioned,
Scrap can be categorized in two parts i.e. New Scrap and Old scrap. In this section we will discuss
how the scrap is handled in these two categories.

6.1 New Scrap

In general, commonly three parties are involved in handling new scraps which can be names as a
dealer, Middleman and the processor. But in real life scenario their roles are not distinguished very
clearly. The dealer get the scrap from industries and transports it to a yard. There he can sell it to
either a middleman or a processor. The middleman will collect scrap from several dealers and sale

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it on a profit to a processor. He can sale different grades of scrap at different rates. At the end the
processor processes the scrap to be used in re-melting facility. The processor performs the
following action:
 Sort and separate one metal from another and separate different categories of scrap.
 Shredding of scrap to small pieces.
 Cleaning the scrap.
 Simple melting of scrap so that aluminium can be separated from iron. Afterwards it is
made into ingot for shipping.

Another method of handling scrap involves the producer and processor only. In this way scrap is
handled quickly, efficiently, less costly, frequent and easier because the alloy content of the scrap
is already know. This is also called Close Loop Recycling.

6.2 Old Scrap

The major part of a scrap consists of Old Scrap. The major section comes from four industries i. e
Automotive Industry, Building debris, Packaging and Wires &Cables Industry. But it is not easily
available anywhere we want. Its availability depends upon the following factors:

6.2.1 Complexity in Recycling

A product that can be easily recycled are more favorable compared to the products that requires
more steps and processing. Large items such as castings can be easily recycled as compared to
Aluminium cables and Cans. The Alloy content should also be low so that it can be removed easily.

6.2.2 Urbanization

It is economical if the old scrap is concentrated and in large amount available instead of being
spread. The presence of automotive, buildings, roads, food packing appliances are found in an
urban area, so it is easy to collect their scrap from an urban area.

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6.2.3 Government policies and awareness

The government policies plays a very important role in encouragement of recycling. In Germany
, it is important to recycle the debris from construction and 85% of the debris is recycled[17] as
compared to USA where only 15% is recycled because there are no strict policies.

6.2.4 Industrial Policies

When industries start recycling their own post consumed items, automatically recycling will be
increased.

7. Scrap Separation methods and technologies

In this section we will discuss different methods which are used for scrap separation.

7.1 Air separation Method

In this method Air is used to separate scrap fluxes. It is known by different names for e.g.
elutriation, air-knives, and air-columns and winnowing. The different names suggest different
mechanisms which are used for scrap separation but in all of them Air is the driving force. Systems
that use conveyer belt often use the suction pull method to pull of the lightweight materials for e.g.
plastics, paper, foam etc. The heavy materials such as metals are dropped off the belt.[18]

Another application of air separation method is in Vertical Column. The scrap is fed
through the top with air pushing upwards. In this way light materials such as paper, plastics remain
upwards and heavier materials for e.g. metals are collected in the bottom.

7.2 Magnetic Separation Method

In this method ferrous and nonferrous materials can be separated. Scrap is fed on to a conveyer
belt which is near to another conveyer belt equipped with NdFeB magnets. When the scrap

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approaches the magnetic conveyer belt then ferrous materials are attracted to the other belt while
nonferrous materials are dropped down into a bunker.

7.3 Eddy Current Separator

This method is used to separate non-ferrous materials such as Aluminium, Magnesium, zinc etc.
from the waste. This method is based on the magnetic rotor with alternating polarity which is
spinning inside a nonmetallic drum. As nonferrous material pass over the drum, the eddy currents
generated in nonferrous materials repels it with a jerk which makes it to throw away into a separate
container at some distance. It was first designed for Aluminium cans but it is being used in other
applications too.[19]

Figure 7 A figure showing the mechanism of Eddy current separator with particles thrown away on distance(in blue) being the
non-Ferrous chips[20]

7.4 Manual Sorting or Color Sorting

Manual Sorting is still very much used in today’s world. It is specifically used for large particles.
In color sorting, different non-ferrous materials for e.g. aluminium, copper, zinc etc. are separated

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manually by hand distinguished by their colors. It is still used in the countries where low cost labor
is available. Color sorting can also be performed by automation. In this the computer analyze the
image of the scraps and based on their color it sends them on to different conveyer belts
irrespective of their shape and size.

Figure 8:Image of Manual Sorting[21]

8.0 Sustainability (Definition)

Sustainability is the capacity to endure or continue. If a product or cycle is Sustainable then it can
be reused, recycled or repeated in some way because it has not exhausted the energy or resources
required to create it. Sustainability can be defined as the ability of something to maintain itself. It
is related to preserving energy and resources over long term rather than wasting it quickly for short
term projects. The idea of the term sustainability was first mentioned by German Forester Georg
Hartig in 1801 when he advised to manage forest in such a way that future generations can reap
the same benefits from it as the current one[22].

Sustainability seeks new ways to addressing the relationship between Societal Growth and
Economic Degradation which would allow human society and economies to grow without
destroying or exploiting environment or the ecosystems in which those societies exist. Definition
of sustainability was also defined in Brundtland Report presented during United Nation
Convention in 1987. Its states that “Sustainable development is the development that meets the
need of the present without compromising the needs of the future generations “[23]

An example of understanding the concept of sustainability is the Recycling of Aluminium Cans.

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Before the concept of recycling, Aluminium cans were thrown in to waste creating a huge amount
of unprocessed waste and a loss in energy and resources. But now the corporations have started
recycling and today Aluminium Recycling industry is a billion dollar industry creating
infrastructure, Jobs and environmental stability. Today , in every minute an average of 113,200
aluminium cans are recycled[24].

The term Sustainability depends upon three factors:

 Environmental: It is related to conserving Resources, Protect Nature and Preserving


Wildlife.
 Social: It deals with promoting community, Eradicate poverty and Ensure equality.
 Economic: It means that what one is doing should be financially feasible and managed for
long term.
When the above mentioned factors are combined only then a product or process can be
called Sustainable.

Figure 9: A figure showing factors of Sustainability[25]

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9.0 Life Cycle Analysis

Environmental considerations play an important part in design and development of many


industries. Life cycle analysis is a part or process related tool for study of environmental
parameters based on technical and economic measures. Products and services cause different
environmental problems during different stages of life cycle. If a manufacturer wants to improve
the environmental performance then it may cause material, processing and manufacturing changes.
A positive change in one environmental aspect can have negative change in aspects. Therefore a
methodology to study to evaluate the outcomes of the changes is called Life Cycle Analysis (LCA).
The aim of LCA is to point out the environmental improvements of the system. For this, the whole
life cycle of a process or system has to be considered. It is important to systematically collect and
interpret all energy and material inputs and output for all relevant processes. [26]

The main objective of LCA is to give the big picture of the human interactions with the
environment.
LCA takes may consist of two process i.e. Cradle to Cradle or Cradle to Grave. If a process
generates no waste i.e. all materials used are recyclable and no waste is produced then it is called
Cradle to Cradle. If a process takes into account the raw materials required to produce product, the
manufacturing of intermediates and the product itself including packaging, transportation, labor,
use of product and disposal of product after use, i.e. waste is generated then it is called Cradle to
Grave approach.

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Figure 10: A figure stating the Factors considered in Life Cycle Analysis Approach[26]

9.1 Life Cycle Analysis Process Step

There are basically four main phases of LCA process

9.1.1 Goals and Scope

In this first the goal and scope of the LCA are defined. It is really important to decide at start about
the purpose of the study to narrow down the scope and focus on the aims of the study. In this step
we decide the system, system boundaries, audience and the assumptions to be made. A functional
unit is also defined which helps in calculating progress and making comparisons of the study. The
quality of the life cycle data is also assessed in order to measure and determine the accuracy and
reliability of the results upon which the upcoming decisions are based.

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9.1.2 Life Cycle Inventory Analysis

In this stage all the input and output flows which include energy, resources, materials, waste are
determined in each phase of life cycle. This involves modelling of the system, all the data
collection and verification of all the input and output involved in the system. Inputs consist of
energy, materials, labor and others. Output consist of waste, emissions etc.[27]. Life Cycle
Inventory analysis is usually represented by a flow chart as given below

Figure 11: System boundary of a Life Cycle Inventory Analysis of a product[26]

9.1.3 Life Cycle Impact Assessment and Implementation


It is a process by which environmental factors identified in the inventory stage are qualitatively or
quantitatively determined and their effects on the environment .In other words, the effect on the
ecological, human health and natural reserves due to factors in inventory cycle are studied. Below
is a list of the impact indicators:
 Global Climate change
 Stratospheric Ozone depletion
 Smog

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 Acidification
 Eutrophication
 Natural Resources
 Human Toxicity
 Eco-toxicity[27]

9.1.4 Improvement Analysis and Interpretation

In this step chances for environmental improvement are identified and recommendations are made.
Areas of improvement are found throughout LCA. In this phase those areas are recommended and
implemented. Improvement analysis is related with design for environment. With this
methodology, improvement proposal is combined with environmental cost in an appropriate way.

9.2 Case study of Life Cycle Analysis (LCA)

Use of Aluminium is increasing in Automotive industry because of its properties i.e. light weight,
high strength etc. This increase in usage is mainly because of the light weight property of
Aluminium which makes the vehicles light, thus reducing fuel consumption and lower CO2
emissions throughout vehicles life cycle. In this section we will discuss the comparison between 4
cylinder Engine block (1600cc) made of Cast Iron and Primary and Secondary Produced
Aluminium using LCA process. This LCA procedure is designed according to International ISO
14040 series of standards.

The following LCA process is done using SIMAPRO 6.0 LCA software which calculates the
results using the Eco Indicator number. Eco Indicator of a material or process is a number that
determines the environmental impact of a material or process based on the data from life cycle
Analysis. The higher the number the more harmful impact the material or process has on the
environment. [28]

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Figure 12: Stages in motor vehicle life cycle assessment [29]

As mentioned before, it is very important to define a system boundary for carrying out LCA of
any process of material. The generalized system boundary of Vehicle Life Cycle is shown below

Figure 13: System boundaries of Vehicle Life Cycle Analysis(LCA)[29]

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In this case study, LCA was applied on the cylinder block, to consider life cycle including
production, use and end-of-life treatment. During the study, all the material and energy flows for
all the involved processes were measured and calculated systematically using the ISO 14040 LCA
standards[30]

SimaPro 6.0 was used because the environmental evaluation is determined by large number of
calculations, huge amount of data is required, stored and evaluated. It is automatically generates
the LCA results in order to obtain environment damage indicator.

9.3 Main Results of the Analysis

The graph in figure 14 summarizes the main analysis obtained through SimaPro. The first column
is related to the cast iron engine block production, it shows that Eco Indicator value for this phase
is 6.23 Pt, as it is shown in figure 15 that the main contributor in the Eco indicator is the electricity
consumption which is 2.81 Pt. It is mainly due to the running of the furnace, natural gas and carbon
consumption. Another contributor to the fuel consumption is the transportation from the site to the
foundry and to the engine plant. In figure 15 it shows that transportation Eco Indicator is 0.76Pt
[30]

In Figure 14, the Eco Indicator value of the Primary Aluminium production is 19Pt, which is far
more compared to Iron Production value of 6.23 and proves it has a bigger environmental impact

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in the production phase. Figure 16 shows the main categories involved in this huge Eco Indicator
of 19Pt.

Figure 14: SIMAPRO LCA analysis showing the comparison between the values of the Eco Indicator of the Cast Iron and
Aluminium Engine block[30]

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Figure 15: Eco Indicator values of the processes involved in production of Cast Iron Engine Block[30]

Figure 16:Eco Indicator values of the processes involved in the Primary Aluminium Engine block[30]

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Figure 16 shows that the main factor for Environment damage is Primary Aluminium production
which is 22.77Pt which is due to excavation of Bauxite mines, high energy intensive process of
Hall-Heroult process and the emissions. Figure 16 also shows that Eco Indicator value of
Recycling Aluminium is negative -10.07 which shows a huge difference from Eco Indicator value
of 0.12Pt of Recycling Cast Iron. This proves that the environmental benefits and positive impacts
of Aluminium recycling are great, which encourages recycling and also accommodates the huge
Eco Indicator value of 22.77 of Primary Aluminium Production.

If we look at the Use phase Eco Indicator Values of Iron and Aluminium engine block, it gives
the values of 37 Pt and 19 Pt for Iron and Aluminium respectively. 37 Pt is a huge value and also
proves that Iron Engine block has a hazardous environmental impact in the use phase. The main
contributor in 37Pt is the Fossil fuels consumption. The reason for this is the high weight of the
Iron engine block of 31kg as compared to low weight of Aluminium Engine block of 16 kg [30].
Aluminium Engine block is light weight which decreases the weight of the vehicle, fuel
consumption and also emissions. These calculations are made for a vehicle whose total life is
150000km.

Now moving towards the graph of the disposal of Iron and Aluminium engine block. It was
assumed that both the engine blocks were recycled at the end of their life. Iron recycling Eco
Indicator value is (-2.55 )and Aluminium recycling value is (-9.5), the difference between the
values is large which proves that Aluminium recycling has a huge negative environmental impact
which means it has a lot of benefits.

Adding up the total Eco Indicator values of both the materials of the production, use and disposal
phase, we get Eco Indicator values of Cast Iron and Primary Aluminium as 41.3Pt and 28.9 Pt
respectively. This proves that Aluminium use is beneficial in terms of cost and environment. In
the above analysis, primarily produced Aluminium Eco indicators were evaluated. In the coming
section we will discuss the case of Secondary Aluminium Engine block

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9.3.1 Secondary Aluminium Engine block

The previous study and analysis were carried out on 100% primary Aluminium. As we know
primary Aluminium production is an energy intensive process which causes huge environmental
damage. On the other hand we have already discussed that the secondary Aluminium production
requires 5 to 10% of the energy required for Primary Aluminium production.

Now we will discuss the Eco Indicator values of Secondary Aluminium production process with
different Secondary Aluminium ratios of 0%, 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% used. We will only
discuss the production phase because the values for the Use and Disposal phase of the aluminium
will remain the same as in the previous section.

Secondary Aluminium (%) Eco Indicator (Pt)

0 19

25 13.7

50 8.32

75 2.96

100 -2.4
Table 2: Eco Indicator Values for different ratios of Secondary Aluminium[30]

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Relationship of Secondary Aluminium used
and Eco indicator in Production Phase
25
20
15
10
5
0
-5 Secondary Secondary Secondary Secondary Secondary
Aluminium 0 % Aluminium 25 % Aluminium 50 % Aluminium 75 % Aluminium 100
%

Eco… .

Figure 17: Graph showing relationship between Ration of Secondary Aluminium used and Eco Indicator

Table 2 shows that Eco Indicator values decreases as the ratio of Secondary Aluminium increases.
For 100% secondary aluminium, Eco indicator shows a negative value of 2.4 which proves that
use of secondary aluminium has great environmental benefits. Some of the environmental
advantages of Aluminium recycling are listed below:

 The Electricity required to produce 1kg of Secondary Aluminium is 5 to 10 % of the electricity


required to produce 1kg of Primary Aluminium
 Lower utilization of natural resources and preservation of natural reserves
 Low carbon emissions

10. Future Predictions of Aluminium

Due to increasing population, development of infrastructure, products, demands and


modernization the demand for Aluminium will continue to increase. The increasing demand of
Aluminium and long life time of many Aluminium products mean that, the overall amount of
primary metal will be greater than recycled metal. According to Aluminium mass flow model

34
developed in 2007, it was calculated that percentage of recycled Aluminium is 32% and it will
remain same in the future [12]

The inventory of Aluminium has increased from 90 million tons in 1970 to about 600million tons
in 2007. In 2020 it is expected to increase to more than 1 billion tons. This is creating a vast
material and energy storage bank for future recycling use.

Figure 18: Share of Primary and Secondary Aluminium produced over the years[13]

The aluminium industry believes that improving recycling rate and recycling technology
will help in the sustainable development of this industry.

According to a study for future Secondary Aluminium availability in Europe, it is stated that
Secondary Aluminium production is not likely to exceed 30%, even 30% is possible when there
are strict restrictions regarding export policies for end of life products for e.g. cars. A theoretical
100% self-supply of aluminium by 2050 is possible when there is 30% Aluminium reduction in
per capita consumption. So a self-sustaining aluminium supply is possible when Aluminium
consumption will be reduced [31]

11. Conclusion

Looking at all of the sustainability elements, we can easily decide that Aluminium is a very
important material in today world. Its unique properties makes it suitable to be used in almost
35
every industry. Its ability to be recycled infinite times without loss is quality and performance
makes it a very sustainable material. Aluminium recycling is a progressing industry with a lot of
work still to do. The elimination of Primary Aluminium production and relying solely on
Secondary Aluminium is impossible but the ratio of Secondary Aluminium can be increased with
more modern and efficient recycling technologies. Primary Aluminium production should also be
made more efficient and environment friendly.

The big issue faced in aluminium recycling is the loss material during melting. A new method
called as Solid State Recycling can be used because it involves no melting. This method is
comparatively new and a lot of research and study is required to replace the conventional re-
melting method. Issues are also faced in collecting and sorting scrap which needs to be addressed.

Our world is sacred and we need to make every process and method as much sustainable as
possible. With increase in population and decrease in natural resources we will leave behind a
planet which will be very difficult to live in for our future generation if we will not take action.
Secondary Aluminium production process should be made more efficient for e.g. with the
introduction of Solid State method. Primary Aluminium Manufacturing technology needs to be
more developed and efficient to reduce energy consumption and also hazardous emissions.
Another method to discourage energy intensive processes is by imposing Carbon Emission Tax
i.e. More tax should be imposed on the industries which emit more gases so that they should start
developing technologies and invest in research to make the methods more environment friendly.

36
37
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