Aluminium as a permanent material
Today, establishing a Circular Economy model and implementing the objectives for Sustainable Development within our strategies is more important than ever. In this situation, in addition to promoting the use of renewable resources and reducing the flow of materials to landfill and incineration, the use of resources whose useful life can be maintained for as long as possible must be encouraged. This is the case with permanent materials. Best Aluminium discusses this on its blog.
According to Spanish Association of Aluminium and Surface Treatments (AEA), permanent materials are those whose resources invested in their production can be recovered through recycling or reuse without their quality diminishing each time the process is repeated, once they reach the end of their useful life. This concept of permanent material replaces the previous idea of “consumption” of materials with that of “use”, so that there is no consumption that ends use. In order to achieve this, the regeneration of the material for successive cycles and the conservation of its value must be guaranteed.
“Aluminium, as a permanent material, guarantees a circular model in its use that never runs out and does not require the incorporation of primary aluminium into the recycling circuit.”
According to the AEA report, an important characteristic of a permanent material is its physicochemical permanence, which can be summarized in three points:
● The material can be recycled and reaches the same level of quality or functional characteristics as the original material.
● The material can be recycled without requiring the significant addition of primary material to make a product with the same level of performance.
● The material will not suffer degradation during its useful life or, if it does, this will not compromise the original functional characteristics.
Aluminium has high recyclability . This is because it only requires small amounts of primary aluminium and some alloying elements during the recycling process. Through this process, recycled aluminium could replace primary aluminium to the same degree of quality, and can also be carried out as many times as required without implying any decrease in that quality.
“Given the options of wood and plastic as alternative materials for enclosures, aluminium is the best alternative due to its environmental and economic viability.”
Due to aluminium’s resistance to corrosive agents to which it is exposed (ultraviolet radiation, water) its properties do not degrade during its use cycles, making it a better option than the rest.
PERMANENT MATERIALS LIFE CYCLE MANAGEMENT
In addition to guaranteeing its physicochemical permanence, life cycle management must be taken into account to determine the permanence of a material.
1. Availability and demand: The possibility of recovering the material at the end of its useful life must be guaranteed. There must also be adequate facilities, supply chains and technologies to carry out the processes of selective collection, separation and classification of materials, which, on the other hand, must be adequate and enable effective recycling where recycled material can be generated without limitations. Similarly, the resulting new material must have a specific demand and purpose.
2. Legal compliance: Recycled material has requirements to meet, concerning the protection of the environment and human health, as well as respecting the regulations and laws that affect it.
In the case of aluminium, its recycling performance exceeds 90% and its recovery rate at the end of the useful life of windows and doors is 95%. Currently, the demand for aluminium, far from simply existing, exceeds the amount of recycled aluminium that can be created with the available remains and, in terms of its legality, aluminium does not contain substances that are harmful to the health of the environment or people.
CONTRIBUTION TO THE SUSTAINABILITY OF PERMANENT MATERIALS
Finally, for a material to be considered permanent, the secondary or recycled material must have an additional value that exceeds that of virgin materials, in addition to contributing to sustainable development.
Recycling aluminium has an environmental advantage: recycled aluminium leaves a considerably lower carbon footprint during its production than primary aluminium. In addition, the economic viability of the aluminium recovery and recycling process makes recycling a better option than other forms of aluminium waste management.
Aluminium contributes to the sustainable use of the resources from which it comes. Although these resources are not renewable, we have already seen that aluminium meets all the requirements of permanent materials
To conclude, this information gives us a clear picture of how widely beneficial aluminium can be for the environment and goes hand in hand with the new resource exploitation and consumption model towards which we are heading, as it reduces the irreversible loss of materials and minimises the demand for virgin raw materials. This means that aluminium, as a permanent material, guarantees a circular model that does not require the addition of more virgin raw material for recycling and whose use never ends.
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