The carbon footprint of aluminum production in North America has more than halved since 1991

A new life cycle assessment revised by a critical review shows a reduction of 49% of carbon for the primary; 60% reduction for recycled aluminum

ARLINGTON, VA, Jan.5, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – A brand new third-party critical review life cycle analysis report (LCA) shows that the energy and carbon impact of aluminum production in North America has fallen to its lowest level ever. Since 1991, the carbon footprint of primary aluminum production has decreased by 49% while the footprint of recycled aluminum production has decreased by 60%. During the same period, the energy required to produce primary and recycled (or secondary) aluminum decreased by 27 and 49%, respectively.

Between 2010 and 2016 alone, the carbon footprint of aluminum production (primary and secondary) decreased between 5 and 21%. Aluminum produced in North America, which relies heavily on renewable hydropower, is among the cleanest in the world, the report says.

A graphical summary of the main takeaways from the report is available here.

the Environmental footprint of semi-fabricated aluminum products in North America LCA report, developed in cooperation with the sustainable development consultancy Sphere, quantifies all the impacts on materials, energy consumption and releases to the environment over the entire life cycle of the aluminum product, from the acquisition of raw materials to recycling and / or disposal at the end of life. The study considers the stages of the life cycle from cradle to door and from cradle to grave. The report is based on aluminum and aluminum products manufactured in North America in 2016.

“The US aluminum industry continues to innovate and find ways to produce this essential metal in the most environmentally friendly way possible,” said Charles Johnson, president and CEO of the Aluminum Association. “And we’re far from done – every day our members pursue new approaches to making this lightweight, sustainable and endlessly recyclable material using less energy and with fewer emissions. “

According to the ACV report, the production of raw material aluminum – including primary and recycled metal – represents the most important element of the industry’s environmental impact for manufacturing products and has grown. significantly improved in recent years. The impact of semi-fabricated aluminum production has also improved (semi-fabricated aluminum is an “intermediate good” that has undergone significant transformation but requires additional work before it is a finished product). Technological advances, including controls of manufacturing processes; efficiency improvements due to economies of scale; phasing out of old fusion technologies; and the switch from coal to renewable electricity in smelters have all contributed to this positive trend.

“Beyond the initial impact of manufacturing, it’s also important to remember how aluminum benefits products throughout their use phase,” Johnson said. “Aluminum makes buildings greener and lasts longer; vehicles go further by consuming less energy; and packaging that’s lighter, more efficient to ship and easier to recycle.

Regional variations in primary aluminum production also cause significant differences in the environmental footprint of various aluminum products. LCA includes analysis of energy consumption and carbon footprint of product types including extruded aluminum, aluminum foil, aluminum foil, die-cast aluminum and aluminum foils and extrusions for the automotive market. Manufacturing these products in regions like China or the Middle East – which rely heavily on coal and natural gas-based electricity – can be two to three times more carbon-intensive than manufacturing similar products in North America, even assuming similar levels of recycled aluminum use. .

“We’re proud of the fact that we make the world’s cleanest aluminum right here in North America,” added Johnson. “The message is clear: Boosting domestic aluminum production is good for manufacturing jobs in the United States and good for the climate. “

The increased recycling of aluminum is also helping to make the industry more sustainable. Manufacturing recycled aluminum is 94% less carbon intensive than manufacturing primary aluminum. Improving the end-of-life recycling rate of aluminum can also have a major impact. Increasing the recycling rate of aluminum by 1% can reduce the overall carbon footprint of the product by 80 kg of CO2 equivalent per 1000 kg of aluminum produced.

Sadly, over a million tonnes of aluminum ends up in landfills each year in North America alone – a massive loss to the economy and the environment. The Aluminum Association is committed to increasing aluminum recycling rates and is working on several fronts to achieve this goal, including advocating for new investments in recycling infrastructure and other policy changes to incentivize increased collection and capture of used aluminum. Last year, the Aluminum Association joined the Can Manufacturers Institute in approving a ambitious goal achieve a 70% recycling rate for aluminum cans in the United States by 2030.

In 2021, the Aluminum Association launched the Choose aluminum campaign to highlight how the aluminum industry supports sustainable development in the United States and around the world. Last spring, the association published the Overview of the Aluminum Industry Sector in the United States showing positive environmental trend lines for US industry on virtually every measure since the 1990s – a period when demand for aluminum has increased by 25%. And a product life cycle assessment report has shown a 40% reduction in the carbon intensity of aluminum can production since 1991. The current campaign presents videos with aluminum workers and managers, a new website on sustainable development at Choose and an additional material highlighting the long-lasting properties of 100% recyclable and durable metal.

To view the full LCA report and read additional life cycle assessment of various aluminum products, visit


About the Aluminum Association
The Aluminum Association represents aluminum production and jobs in the United States, from primary production to value-added products to recycling, as well as suppliers to the industry. The association is the industry’s leading voice, representing the companies that manufacture 70 percent of the aluminum and aluminum products shipped to North America. The association develops global standards, business intelligence, research on sustainable development and industrial expertise for member companies, policy makers and the general public. The aluminum industry helps manufacturers produce sustainable and innovative products, including more fuel-efficient vehicles, recyclable packaging, greener buildings, and modern electronics. In the United States, the aluminum industry supports $ 172 billion in economic activity and nearly 660,000 jobs. For more information visit or find us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram.

CONTACT: Matt Meenan Aluminum Association 703-358-2977 [email protected]
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