Thanks to its unique properties and infinite recyclability, aluminium is playing a fundamental role in the transition to a competitive, circular and low-carbon society. Here, you can discover our policy work on strategic applications for aluminium, including building and construction, mobility and packaging as well as our activities on recycling and standards.
Primary or recycled aluminium - most often in alloyed form - is cast into ingots, billets or slabs. Slabs can be rolled into sheets for making aluminium foil, beverage cans, car body parts, architectural cladding and an array of other products. Billets, using the extrusion process are transformed into profiles for many applications such as aluminium window frames. Aluminium ingots can also be cast to any shape.
Standards on aluminium and its alloys provide a common language for certifying performance. This allows a constructive dialogue between suppliers, customers and authorities, which assists in drafting contracts and in conforming with legislation.
The comprehensive catalogue, covering the more than 120 standards for aluminium, its alloys and its various product forms, was updated in 2018 and can be found here. This also highlights recent publications and ongoing works.
In 2018, there were advances on revising several European standards dealing with aluminium and its alloys, leading to the following publications:
EN 14726:2019 ‘Guideline for spark optical emission spectrometric analysis’ with a new scope and deeply revised
European Aluminium has also had to deal with several revision requests at international level, to avoid conflicts with European ones. These are ISO 115, on unalloyed ingots for remelting, ISO 209 on chemical composition for wrought alloys that competes with EN 573 and ISO 6362 & 6363, relevant for extruded and cold-drawn products that compete with EN 755 & 754 respectively. Going against European interests, revision of ISO 209 has been disapproved.
Although not directly managed by European Aluminium, 2018 also saw the publication of several standards dealing with anodising of aluminium.
For further information on standards, please consult our standards web page.
As a member of a coalition of interested stakeholders in construction and raw materials, European Aluminium successfully defended the ‘Energy Efficiency First’ principle, managing to ensure that Member States must now ensure the optimal performance of the building envelope, as part of the new Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), which came into force in July 2018.
European Aluminium, together with other window industry stakeholders, continues to promote the energy balance - based on the new EPBD - for assessing the thermal performance of windows. This proposes to extend the calculation of insulation properties to include solar heat gains and airtightness. Currently, insulation properties are often the sole characteristic under consideration.
European Aluminium also completed several full-scale measurement campaigns to demonstrate the thermal performance of aluminium ventilated claddings. Three of these took place as part of the EU-funded E2VENT project, completed in June 2018, where we organised a policy workshop in April 2018.
HORIZON 2020 RESEARCH PROJECT
This project is supported by the European Commission under the Energy Theme of the Horizon 2020 for research and Technological development.
European Aluminium supports greater transparency and recognition for the end-of-life performance of building products. It promotes the collecting and recycling of aluminium building products at the end of their life.
European Aluminium is also contributing to amending standard EN 15804, which regulates Environmental Products Declarations (EPDs) for building products. The objective is to gain full recognition for end-of-life recycling benefits, which will be key to achieving a circular economy. In line with this standard, and as an ‘EPD Programme Operator’, European Aluminium has produced additional EPDs, bringing the total to 44. All of these are available here.
As part of the Waste Framework Directive revision, European Aluminium requested that re-use and recycling targets be set for construction and demolition waste. This proved successful, as the new Directive 2018/851 now officially requires the Commission to consider setting targets for preparing construction and demolition waste for re-use and recycling by 31 December 2024.
Pictured: aluminium window recycling exhibition at European Aluminium's public event New Industrial Policy: what role for strategic value chains? (19 April 2018)
The Construction Products Regulation sets out harmonised rules for declaring performance and CE marking. European Aluminium seeks simplified procedures and improved technical specifications that fairly balance declared performance reliability and compliance costs.
European Aluminium participated in the public consultation on EU rules for construction products as part of their review by the European Commission.
Regarding technical specifications, the table below highlights some 2018 achievements.
Internal pedestrian doors
New EN 14351-2:2018 published
Removes trade barriers within the EU
New EN 17146:2018 published
Allows assessment of the strength of glass supports
External wall cladding kits
European Assessment Document 090062-00-0404 published
CE marking now possible
Roofing and cladding sheets
EN 507 & EN 508-2 to be published soon
Extension to cladding and anodising
European Aluminium provides guidance for manufacturers requesting CE marking of aluminium building products and is involved in developing the future European Commission Standardisation Request on windows, doors and curtain walls. We also monitor international standards, in order to avoid conflicts with European ones.
In addition, European Aluminium is contributing to developing a European Commission-led approach to assessing the fire performance of facades.
Pictured: The Markthal in Rotterdam (NL) which uses print on coated aluminium sheets
This year, we developed in a campaign to demonstrate how important aluminium will be for electric vehicles. We created a three-minute film and a PowerPoint presentation.
The campaign showed the importance of aluminium, not only for making cars lightweight, but also for protecting battery boxes, facilitating charging infrastructure and its importance solution in green energy production. We also showed how aluminium smelters can be used to help balance the grid, in a future where much of the energy production relies on less-stable sources such as wind and solar power.
The film was promoted through our social media channels and attracted considerable the interest, gathering than XX views and XX in 2018.
We also took part in an official side event at the COP 24 in Poland in December, discussing electro mobility. The importance of a Europe-wide build-up of charging infrastructure was one of the many topics discussed.
In 2018, EU legislators managed to agree new CO2 emission targets for cars and vans for 2025 and 2030; 15 percent by 2025 and 37.5 percent by 2030. They also increased sales targets for Zero or Low Emission Vehicles (ZLEV) to 15 percent in 2025 and 35 percent in 2030. Unfortunately, they will continue to base CO2 targets on the mass of the vehicle, despite our effort to argue that a change of parameter would be more cost effective.
As part of our campaign, we organised two public debates that attracted a large number of stakeholders; we also took part in a number of events organised by other stakeholders. In addition, we placed several opinion pieces in various Brussels-based media outlets.
2018 also saw the first-ever European CO2 standard for Heavy-Duty Vehicles discussed. While the final agreement is pending, truck makers will have to show significant improvement in fuel efficiency in the coming years. We have managed to ensure that lightweighting will be one of the tools the truck manufacturers can rely on to meet their future targets.
Making a vehicle lighter and more recyclable are mutually compatible. Aluminium can contribute both to the lightweighting of the vehicle and to its high-value recyclability at end of life.
The End of Life Vehicles (ELVs) of today - on average, cars around 14 years old - contain approximately 4-6 percent aluminium. This can grow to around 10 percent for premium cars treated today. In the future, the level of aluminium in ELVs is expected to grow; cars currently being produced have an aluminium content of 7-20 percent.
Also, during this year, we finalised a study examining the effectiveness of today’s ELV recycling process. The results show that - in modern plants - 95 percent of the aluminium in an ELV is successfully and profitably reused or recycled into new products, substituting primary aluminium.
In addition, recycling aluminium reduces the energy consumption by 95 percent compared to producing primary aluminium, thus providing a clear environmental benefit.
The European Union finally approved the amended Waste Framework and the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directives in June 2018. Following nearly a decade of often intense lobbying, European Aluminium achieved a series of positive outcomes on the packaging-related elements of the Circular Economy Package, including:
More ambitious recycling targets for household and packaging waste, with a new split target for used aluminium packaging of 50 percent by 2025 and 60 percent by 2025. Member States can go further but can also apply for temporary derogations on specific materials if they currently lack collection and sorting capacity. They must reach a landfill cap of 10 percent for household waste by 2035.
A single method for the Member States to measure their ‘real recycling’ following the final sorting phase - just before the start of the recycling process - in our case, the remelting phase.
Aluminium recovered from incinerator bottom ash is recognised and therefore can be included in national recycling results.
As well as re-use, the concept of ‘multiple recycling’ has been accepted, thus recognising the ‘permanent’ characteristics of endlessly recyclable materials such as aluminium.
As the European Commission needs to guide the EU Member States through a number of additional ‘delegated and implementation acts’, our lobbying efforts continued through the second half of 2018. These focused on properly calculating recycling targets and sorting losses; respectively the amounts of recovered aluminium from the incinerator bottom ash.
The Packaging Group informed the Extended Producer Responsibility schemes on the consequences of the future collection of the aluminium packaging fraction. It also shared our list of ‘predominant’ aluminium packaging items that we would like to see collected via the PMD (blue or yellow bag) system with the two leading organisations, Pro Europe and EXPRA. In addition, we decided to embark on a joint roadmap, with can-makers, to aim for a 100 percent can-recycling target.
In addition, we commissioned a study on ‘The Optimal Sorting Plant’ for aluminium packaging, undertaken for us by HTP Consultancy. The results, which clearly demonstrate the benefits of extra investment in innovative sorting tools to increase recycling of the aluminium fraction, were presented at our annual packaging seminar in September 2018.
In June, European Aluminium published its latest European recycling results for aluminium beverage cans, reaching a record level of 73.6 percent for all cans consumed in the European Union and the EFTA countries. Read our press release.
The current EU focus on plastics is understandable; however, proposals for reducing the impact of single-use plastics (such as PET bottles) that frequently litter the environment, are also relevant for other materials, including aluminium. The proposal deals with collection and sorting, eco-design and incentives for recycled materials. Several of these measures could impact aluminium-containing packaging items (e.g. composites) and/or items made completely from aluminium, such as household foil, menu trays and even beverage cans.
The European Aluminium Packaging Group’s advocacy focused on further clarifying the precise definition and the list of plastic items covered as well as limiting any potential ‘overflow’ risk from concepts such as ‘Recycled Content’. Although the recommendation to use deposit return systems for collecting PET bottles might also work for aluminium beverage cans, these do not need to be directly promoted pro-actively across the EU.
Our 2018 Annual Packaging Group Seminar was again well-attended. More than eighty experts gathered in Krakow, Poland on 19-21 September to discuss and discover the latest trends and issues in the fields of aluminium packaging and recycling.
In cooperation with RECAL, the Polish Aluminium Packaging and Recycling Organisation, the event saw keynote speakers and round table participants shed fresh light on a variety of topics. These included how the aluminium packaging markets in Central and Eastern Europe have developed in the past 25 years. There was also a discussion on the EU Circular Economy ambitions, with a focus on the current situation and the challenges in Poland, as well as the need to invest in the best available waste collection and sorting infrastructure. The whole group was invited to visit the spectacular Wieliczka Salt Mine, where the gala dinner was held. The final day of the seminar was dedicated to a field trip to the Krakow Municipal recycling centre and Waste-to-Energy plant.
As of 2019, the Packaging Group Seminar will be organised every two years, with the next edition foreseen for 2020.
The ‘Every Can Counts’ programme continued to grow in 2018, with a new initiative in the Czech Republic called ‘Kazda Plechovka se Pocita’ - literally ‘Every Can Counts’ - in Czech. This will be run as an independent NGO with its own structure. In addition, at the initiative of Polish can manufacturer Can-Pack, an ‘Every Can Counts’ campaign will be launched in Morocco during 2019, focusing on large festivals and tourist resorts. The next Every Can Counts candidate countries are Portugal and Italy.
In the Benelux countries, ‘Every Can Counts’ has just been established as a foundation with its own legal structure, board and budget.
In Spain, the highly-original and artistic ‘Pixelata’, a huge wall using 2,000 painted beverage cans as pixels to create a large spectacular image, received a mention in the ‘Design and Citizen Participation/ UCCI’ category of the Bienal Iberoamericana de Diseño 2018 (‘BID_18’). The ‘Pixelata’ had already won two gold awards ("Design for Society" category and "Design for Sustainability" subcategory) at the IDA Design Awards in Los Angeles, US in 2017. Several ‘Every Can Counts’ initiatives are already looking to acquire their own wall with painted beverages, as it has proved a great tool for engaging consumers and media.
Recycling scrap in third countries
To close the loop and ensure quality recycling, all aluminium scrap exported from Europe should be recycled under Environment Health and Safety (EHS) standards which are equivalent to the European EHS standards.
Our request for equivalent standards found its way into the Waste and Packaging and Packaging Waste Directives. However, EU policy makers only agreed to apply “broadly equivalent” conditions for exported waste, without specifying the standards to be applied. Following the adoption of these Directives, the European Commission then launched a study to find a solution to defining these “broadly equivalent” conditions. European Aluminium has continued its advocacy efforts to ensure that the reference for these conditions will both meet existing ISO standards and that member states ensure take a harmonised approach to ensuring that the conditions are met.
Another priority for the industry was to endorse a clause asking for re-use and recycling targets to be set for construction and demolition waste (C&DW) by 2025 and 2030. This proved successful, as the new Directive 2018/851 now officially requires the Commission to consider setting targets for preparing C&DW for re-use and recycling of construction & demolition waste by 31 December 2024.
During 2018, the European Commission worked on the Waste Shipment Regulation (WSR), due to be reviewed by 2020. The WSR lays down rules for waste shipments, both within the EU and between the EU and non-EU countries, with the specific aim of improving environmental protection. The European Commission organised two public consultations and stakeholders’ meetings took place. European Aluminium stressed the need to reduce the administrative burdens for transporting waste and highlighted the lack of harmonised definitions, which lead to delays in waste shipment. We also asked the Commission to simplify the notification procedure and Member State alignment on the interpretation of waste classification. Other requests included the need for a new green-listed code in Annex IIIB for aluminium window profiles and for an EU-protected digital system that would allow companies to submit Annex VII in electronic form.
European Aluminium also expressed its view, in a public consultation on the Chemical Product Waste Interface, as there is a likely overlap between several pieces of legislation such as the Waste Framework Directive, the RoHS and ELV Directives and REACH Regulation. The Chemical Product Waste Interface discusses the Circular Economy, where more secondary raw materials are recycled and the presence of substances of concern in recycled materials. It also aims to improve the tracking of substances that could be harmful to human health and/or the environment.
The 15th International Aluminium Recycling Congress on 26-27 February in Colmar (France) attracted over 160 participants from across the globe. The theme of the event was ‘Recycling in a new Circular Economy landscape.’ Keynote speakers included Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, and Anne Sander, a French Member of the European Parliament.
During the Congress, participants discussed aluminium recycling and circular economy, market trends, innovative technologies and applications. In addition, they had the opportunity to enjoy a dinner amidst classic cars in the Cité de l’Automobile museum and to visit the Constellium plant in Neuf-Brisach.