Environment

A culture of responsibility.

The European aluminium industry is committed to the responsible stewardship throughout the life cycle.

In the last 20 years we have looked beyond mere compliance with environmental requirements, through smart product development and improved environmental performance. The results are testified by the evolution of various Sustainable Development Indicators, regularly monitored.

Looking to the future, our industry has set a number of voluntary targets to ensure, among others, the correct management of the production and transformation processes in view of safeguarding the environment. 

These voluntary targets are in line with the legislative provisions either already in place or under developments (below a few relevant examples), with the aim to create synergies and partnerships with the concerned stakeholders.

BREF (Best Available Technology Reference Documents)

In line with the European legislation on industrial emissions, the BREF chapter for the aluminium industry describes the Best Available Techniques, and the related performance, on which to base the conditions for environmental permits for primary and recycling aluminium production sites.

European Aluminium and its members actively participated in the development of this document, with the objective to combine an ambitious environmental protection with the technical and economic feasibility.

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Industrial Waste

The wastes and by-products generated during the production and transformation of aluminium are a potential resource for the same or other processes. Therefore, in full alignment with the principles of the circular economy, and the waste hierarchy, the aluminium industry has voluntarily set the objective to reduce and recycle as much as possible the industrial waste, aiming at the same time to ban the landfill of recyclable hazardous industrial waste.

Considering the complexity of the value chain, each waste stream will be considered in detail, assessing existing opportunities, limitations, alternatives and actions needed to improve the current picture.

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REACH

REACH is the EU Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemical substances, whose aim is to improve the protection of human health and the environment, by thoroughly assessing the properties of chemical substances either produced in Europe or imported, and regulating their safe use accordingly.

The most relevant substances for our industry in this context are produced substances such as aluminium metal, aluminium oxide and aluminium hydroxide, but also a number of other substances used in the production process such as, among others, the Coal Tar Pitch in the production of anodes for the primary smelting.

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Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

In order to understand the true value of recyclability, the product performance has to be compared in a realistic way throughout their entire life cycle. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) provides the best framework for assessing the potential environmental impacts of products. It comprises the full life cycle of a product, including raw material acquisition, fabrication, transportation, use, recycling/disposal and the related operations of energy supply, ancillary material supply and transport.

The European Aluminium industry contributes to the European Platform on Life Cycle Assessment which is being developed by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. This LCA platform aims at integrating life cycle thinking into product development and into policy making using sound LCA methodologies based on ISO standards.

Product Environmental Footprint (PEF)

The European Commission’s Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) initiative aims to define harmonised rules that allow a fairer comparison of a product’s environmental qualities.

We are directly participating in a number of projects such as the pilot project for metal sheet, mainly addressing the building market, the pilot project for beer and the newly established horizontal packaging working group. Our main objective remains advocating the use of the end of life recycling methodology, rather than the so-called 50/50 PEF approach.

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