Aluminium at work

Solutions for a Sustainable Society

Thanks to its unique properties and infinite recyclability, aluminium plays 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 standards.

Aluminium and its alloys

Supporting technical dialogue with customers

Standards make dialogue between suppliers, customers and authorities possible. They provide a common language for certifying performance and for ensuring conformity with legislation.

A comprehensive catalogue providing details of more than 120 standards - for aluminium, its alloys and its various product forms - was revised in 2020 and can be found here. The catalogue also highlights recently published standards and those undergoing revision processes.

In 2020, advances were made on the revision of several European standards dealing with aluminium and its alloys, leading to the following publications:

  • EN 1676:2020 ‘Alloyed ingots for remelting – Specifications"
  • EN 1706:2020 ‘Castings - Chemical composition and mechanical properties’

We developed promotional material to support customers’ adoption of EN 14726:2019 ‘Determination of the chemical composition of aluminium and aluminium alloys by spark optical emission spectrometry’.

European Aluminium worked to ensure that several revision requests at international level avoided conflicting with existing European standards. These are ISO 115, on unalloyed ingots for remelting, ISO 2107, on temper designations, that competes with EN 515 and ISO 6362 & 6363, relevant for extruded and cold-drawn products that compete with EN 755 & 754 respectively.

European Aluminium, together with other metals associations, kept the pressure on to block the development of an ISO project focused on ‘measurement uncertainty,’ which would have negatively impacted the release of products and their performance.

For further information on standards, including a guidance document about how to use them, consult our standards web page.

Photo:  Bård Gudim/Hydro

Structural applications of aluminium

In the field of structural applications of aluminium, European Aluminium published a booklet for the use of Eurocode 9 in the design of aluminium structures. This document, also published by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, is of particular interest to structural engineers designing infrastructure, means of transport, offshore constructions and, more generally, to anyone with an interest in the applications and development of aluminium for structural uses.




Recycling and end-of-life benefits

European Aluminium advocates for greater recognition of the end-of-life value and performance of building products. It promotes transparent reporting to support an increase in the collection and recycling of aluminium building products at the end of their life.

In 2020, a new case study was completed to confirm the high end-of-life collection rates of aluminium building products. With 98.3% of end-of-life aluminium building products collected for recycling, the new case study confirms the high collection rates reported in the 2004 study.

Under the auspices of the European Committee for Standardisation’s (CEN) technical committee for ‘sustainability of construction works’, European Aluminium is involved in the amendment of standard EN 15978, which regulates the assessment of the environmental impact of buildings.

As an ‘Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) Programme Operator’, European Aluminium updated its Programme Rules, which are now in line with EN 15804:2019. During the year, additional EPDs for specific aluminium building products were produced. All the existing EPDs and the updated documentation are available here. European Aluminium EPDs obtained the recognition of the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community’s database, Ökobaudat, the only recognised source of data for assessing the environmental performance of buildings in Germany.

By promoting the use of EPDs, European Aluminium has contributed to the ongoing discussion on how to implement the ‘sustainable use of natural resources’ requirement of the EU Construction Products Regulation.

European Aluminium and the International Aluminium Institute also monitor standards developed by the ISO/TC 59/SC 17 ‘Sustainability in buildings and civil engineering works’ committee globally.

Securing compliance with legal building requirements

The Construction Products Regulation (CPR), which is currently under discussion and possibly subject to review, sets out harmonised rules for declaring performance and CE marking of construction products, thereby supporting the EU single market. European Aluminium actively participated in both generic and technical consultations that will be the basis for the upcoming review of the Regulation.

During these consultations, as well as in a dedicated conference organised by the German Presidency of the Council of the EU, our team advocated for the development of simplified procedures and improved technical specifications to achieve a fair balance between the need for highly reliable tests and the associated costs. European Aluminium stressed the need to maintain fenestration products under the framework of the CPR, to declare sustainability performance using the method currently in place for Environmental Product Declarations and to overcome the non-citation of products standards in the Official Journal of the EU. One consequence of this non-citation is that, while European Aluminium’s active contribution led to the publication by CEN of the new standard for curtain walling kits (EN 13830:2015+A1:2020) that defines updated procedures of the assessment and verification of performance, it cannot be used for CE marking yet. The same situation applies with EN 14351-2:2018 on internal pedestrian door sets.

Also in this transition period, European Aluminium is providing 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. In order to avoid conflicts with European Standards and additional costs for our members, we participate in the development of international fenestration standards and continuously monitor to ensure that no national technical rules are created on top of European ones so as to avoid extra burdens such as additional testing. We also guide our members on the path to post-Brexit compliance in the UK.

Pictured: Aluminium cladding on the Selfridges Building in Birmingham, UK.

Fire Safety of buildings

Since aluminium is used extensively in buildings, we keep a close eye on the topic of fire safety and have published an informative document about “Aluminium and Fire Safety” with insights about the construction sector.

European Aluminium participated actively both in the Steering Group and as stakeholder of the European Commission-led project to finalise a European method for the assessment of fire performance of facades, which will enter into its final phase in 2021.

Looking at fire-related standards, European Aluminium has secured the anticipated publication of the draft standard prEN 17020-4 – “Extended application of test results on durability of self-closing doors”, which will allow metal door manufacturers to reduce the amount of testing activities, referring instead to extrapolation of results. Furthermore, our team keeps regular contact with fire laboratories and the Group on Notified Bodies under the CPR to secure the fair development and implementation of test standards for our construction products.

European Aluminium is also active in keeping the dialogue open with other fire safety associations, such as the European Fire Safety Alliance, whose Fire Safety Action Plan, specifically focussing on the residential environment, we support.

Photo:  European Aluminium



Revision of the End-of-Life Vehicle Directive

During 2020, the European Commission started working on the review of Directive 2000/53/EC on end-of-life vehicles (the "ELV Directive"). The Commission’s proposal is expected in 2021. European Aluminium has been very active in advocating for our position to the European Commission. Over the course of the year we attended stakeholder meetings, organised bilateral discussions with Commission officials and responded to public and targeted consultations. We are convinced that aluminium is a material that can contribute to making the mobility sector more circular, and have below highlighted a few areas where we would like to see improvements in order to make this a reality.

Our main suggestions are:

  • There is no need for minimum recycled content rates for materials like aluminium.
  • Proven aluminium solutions that can achieve the goals of making a vehicle lighter AND fully and economically recyclable already exist.
  • Design for recycling and post-shredder separation technologies should be incentivised further.
  • The EU must act to get a better understanding of what actually happens with the end-of-life vehicles of unknown whereabouts. The EU must also take swift action against any illegal shipment or treatment of end-of-life vehicles.

More details can be found here.

Online communication tools

During 2020, we focussed significantly on online communication tools. A series of five short videos explaining the benefit of aluminium in mobility were developed and launched. The content of the videos ranged from the obvious benefits, such as lightweighting and safety, to more complex topics like Life Cycle Assessment and end-of-life recycling. Through targeted promotion, these videos have been viewed more than 160,000 times during 2020 on YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn.

We have also developed infographics to be used in our advocacy campaigns and continued to use our newsletter AluDrive to spread company news and other relevant stories to the public.

Sign up to AluDrive here

Dismantling Study

This year, the project on “Dismantling End-of-Life Vehicles (ELVs) for better aluminium recycling” was completed. The study, realised by IRT-M2P in close collaboration with the members of the Automotive & Transport group and some members of the recycling division, investigated the overall recycling process of ELVs and more specifically evaluated the feasibility of dismantling aluminium components from ELVs before shredding.

In short, increasing the dismantling rates of specific components is not an issue of technical feasibility and no new specific equipment would be needed. Rather, it is an issue of economics, information and training. The study confirmed, once again, that the collection rates of ELVs, especially for premium vehicles, should increase. Avoiding the loss of such vehicles and ensuring their treatment in Europe could significantly increase the amount of aluminium recovered each year.

The public summary of the project on dismantling can be accessed at this link.



Preparing for the new EU aluminium packaging recycling targets and the upcoming review of the Packaging Directive

The new EU split aluminium packaging targets, approved in 2018, came into force during the course of 2020. This means that in due course Member States have to report specific aluminium recycling results. Today, only a small group of countries is able to report in such detail with most only report the overall metal packaging recycling results. We have to ensure the reporting is done properly and that underreporting is avoided. In 2020, we finalised an internal survey with our recycling company members in order to find out to what extent we can already contribute to these national reports and where we have potential reporting ‘gaps’. 

The Packaging Group also intensified its efforts to prepare its national recycling initiatives in order to improve national collection and sorting performance, and declare more aluminium being sorted for recycling. This was also stressed by several speakers during a well-attended online workshop focusing on ‘Investing in better collection and sorting of used aluminium for recycling’ in September 2020, an event that replaced the annual packaging seminar. The general conclusion was that it really ‘pays off’ to make these extra investments. You can watch the first session here and the second session here.

 The Packaging Group was involved in several consultations for the upcoming review of the EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive. We also lobbied on the European Parliament’s Own-Initiative Report regarding the EU Circular Economy Action Plan 2.0 in order to position aluminium as a ‘permanent material’ contributing to the Circular Economy. Materials, such as aluminium, which can be recycled multiple times should be at the same level as ‘reuse’, well above ‘one off’ recycling and materials which ‘downcycle’ after only a few recycling trips. A mandatory ‘Recycled Content’ percentage for all materials should be avoided, as well as a general reduction target for all packaging. Instead, the emphasis should be put on over-packaging and the proper use of life cycle assessment, in order to define eco-friendly packaging solutions.

Video: The eddy current separator uses a powerful magnetic field to separate non-ferrous metals, such as aluminium, from waste

Aluminium beverage can recycling at a record level of 76.1%, need for balanced deposit return systems

In December, European Aluminium - together with MPE - published its latest European recycling results for the aluminium beverage can, indicating a new record level of 76.1% for all cans consumed in the European Union and the EFTA countries (link to press release). Whilst this is a considerable improvement it will become more challenging to reach recycling rates of 90% or more. Together with can makers, we strive towards a 100% can recycling rate by 2030, but in order to meet this ambitious goal we do not only need improved plastic bottles, metal packaging and drink cartons (PMD) collection systems but also Deposit Return Systems (DRS).

Representatives of the Packaging Group have been very active in the various countries proposing DRS and we stressed the need for well-balanced systems guaranteeing a level playing field with PET (plastic)and glass bottles, the two major competing beverage containers. Variable deposit fee levels would be welcomed to avoid large plastic containers having an advantage over the smaller aluminium cans and the same recycling targets have to be applied to beverage packaging that stays outside DRS. In February 2020 we organised a special DRS workshop in Lithuania in order to inform our network in more detail about the do’s and don’ts in DRS.

Every Can Counts delivers great results despite pandemic

2020 was certainly a challenging year for the Every Can Counts initiative around Europe as the pandemic forced the campaign to quickly adapt to cancelled events, stricter conditions for activities, etc. Let’s take a quick tour of last year’s highlights:

Every Can Counts Europe - together with LUCID - conducted a consumer survey in 14 countries where the ECC is active to identify consumers’ recycling behaviour. One of the main findings is that the vast majority of respondents (93%) would like to see more recycling bins on the streets, in public spaces, parks, beaches, or on trails. The full survey report is available here.

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