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Aluminium at work

The base metal for the green transition

Thanks to its unique properties, including endless recyclability, aluminium already plays a fundamental role in the EU’s transition to a competitive, circular and low carbon society. Here, you can find out more about our policy work on strategic applications for aluminium, including on strategic applications such as building and construction, mobility and packaging, as well as our activities on standards.

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DIGITAL ACTIVITY REPORT 2021-2022
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 European standards – for aluminium, its alloys and its various product forms – was revised in 2021 and can be found here. The catalogue also highlights recently published standards and those currently undergoing revision.

In 2021, advances were made on the revision of several European standards dealing with aluminium and its alloys, leading to the following publications, among others:

  • EN 603-3:2021 “Aluminium and aluminium alloys – Wrought forging stock - Part 3: Tolerances on dimensions and form”
  • EN 1706:2020+A1:2021 “Aluminium and aluminium alloys - Castings – Chemical composition and mechanical properties”

Aiming to ensure a consistent and aligned set of standardisation deliverables worldwide, European Aluminium has provided input to the revision of the ISO 6362 and 6363 series on extruded and cold-drawn products that compete with European standards EN 755 and 754.

European Aluminium, together with other metals associations, ensured the definitive withdrawal of an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) project focused on ‘measurement uncertainty’ which would have negatively impacted the release of aluminium products, as well as their performance.

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

Structural applications of aluminium

In the field of structural applications of aluminium, European Aluminium has promoted the development of the new ‘Eurocode 9’ (a series of European standards on the design of aluminium structures), by actively participating in the activities of the European Committee for Standardization’s working group CEN TC 250 SC 9. The series of 'Eurocode 9' standards have (prEN 1999-1:2021 and prEN 1999-2) received positive votes from all the National Standardisation Bodies which are members of CEN and will be published in 2022, one year ahead of Eurocodes dealing with competing materials.

European Aluminium has also been appointed, among other construction industry representatives, to a European Commission Working Group, established to develop a new Standardisation Request for structural metallic products. This work should make possible the long-awaited update of two important product standards (EN 15088 on semi-finished products made of aluminium and aluminium alloys for load-bearing structural construction works; and EN 1090-1 dealing with metallic structural components used in construction works).

 

Building

Building

Sustainable Construction

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

In 2021, a second case study was launched in the Netherlands to calculate end-of-life collection rates of aluminium building products. This work is a continuation of a first case study conducted in 2020, which calculated a collection rate of 98.3%, confirming the high collection rates reported in the initial 2004 TU Delft 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 the Standard for assessment of the environmental impact of buildings (EN 15978). Additionally, European Aluminium is drafting and commenting on new business-to-consumer communication standards (prEN 17672) and data quality (pr EN 15941). Lastly, European Aluminium has taken on the role of project leader for the development of complementary product category rules (c-PCR) for curtain walling in the technical committee responsible for doors, windows and curtain walling (CEN/TC 33/ WG6).

As an ‘Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) Programme Operator’, European Aluminium produced several additional EPDs for specific aluminium building products. All the existing EPDs and the EPD programme documentation are available here.

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

Single EU market for construction products

The Construction Products Regulation (CPR), which is currently under discussion and will be subject to review in 2022, sets out harmonised rules for declaring the performance and CE marking of construction products, thereby supporting the EU single market.

European Aluminium actively participated in all the consultations that will provide the basis for the upcoming review of the Regulation. During these consultations, our team advocated for the development of simplified procedures and improved technical specifications to balance 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; declare sustainability performance using the method currently in place for EPDs; and overcome the issue of non-citation of product standards in the EU Official Journal.

We have submitted our application to the Working Group established by the European Commission to develop a new standardisation request for fenestration products. This should establish the foundations for a new generation of product standards, including those for windows, doors and curtain walling.

During this transition period, European Aluminium has also provided guidance for manufacturers requesting CE marking of aluminium building products and contributed to the development of several new standards that were published in 2021. These include:

  • EN 16758:2021 “Curtain walling - Determination of the strength of shear connections - Test method and requirements”
  • EN 16759:2021 “Bonded Glazing for doors, windows and curtain walling - Verification of mechanical performance of bonding on aluminium and steel surfaces”
  • EN 17490:2021 “Determination of screw pull out forces from screw thread channels”
  • EN 17020-4:2021 “Extended application of test results on durability of metal framed glazed self-closing doors and openable windows”

To avoid conflicts with European standards and additional costs for our members, we also participate in the development of international fenestration standards and continuously monitor to ensure that no national technical rules are created in addition to European ones. This helps avoid extra burdens such as additional testing.

One of the most relevant projects at European level is currently dealing with the finalisation of a new EU method to assess the fire performance of facades. Since aluminium is used in facade applications (e.g. in the form of cladding material or curtain walling), we have actively participated in the Steering Group of this European Commission-led project. The testing phase will begin in 2022.

We have also worked to guide our members on the path to post-Brexit compliance in the UK and achieved -  alongside other industry associations - recognition of the CE mark in the UK market for one additional year beyond what was previously communicated by the UK Authorities.

Image: The Novotel – Ibis hotel complex L’Esplanade in Paris. The building features a façade with clear anodised rectangular cassette panels with edges folded at 90°, mounted horizontally and vertically.

Boosting energy efficiency with aluminium windows

In the context of the European Commission‘s “A Renovation Wave for Europe” communication, and the revisions of the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) and Energy Performance of Buildings Directives (EPBD), European Aluminium joined forces with other windows stakeholders to ask for a window replacement wave, and for windows to be at the core of national resilience and recovery plans. As several studies have demonstrated, a window’s replacement rate can reduce the projected energy consumption and related CO2 emissions by maximising natural light and solar heat gains inside buildings.

While European Aluminium welcomes the Commission’s proposal for a recast EPBD released in December 2021 which included many improvements needed to unlock the Renovation Wave, European Aluminium regrets the lack of guidance for Members States on setting minimum energy performance requirements for transparent building elements like windows. These requirements too often focus on insulation (U-values) without considering equally important parameters, like solar gains, cooling through natural ventilation, etc. Therefore, European Aluminium continues to promote ‘energy balance’ as the solution, in the context of the EPBD, and as a basis for revising the windows criteria in the EU Taxonomy Climate Delegated Act.

Finally, following the Commission’s proposal to disclose life-cycle Global Warming Potential in energy performance certificates under the EPBD, European Aluminium contributed to the development of the Metals for Buildings movie on whole life carbon to promote the consideration of recyclability in its calculation.

Image: A residential building in Bulgaria with curved façade aluminium profiles. Architecture studio STARH. Photography by Dian Stanchev DSP studio.

Mobility

Revision of the End-of-Life Vehicle Directive: an opportunity to leverage aluminium’s circularity

In 2020, the European Commission started working on the review of Directive 2000/53/EC on end-of-life vehicles (the "ELV Directive") and its work continued in 2021. The Commission’s proposal is expected by the end of 2022. The ELV Directive is pivotal to determining the destiny of ELVs in Europe; and will establish the rules for collection, treatment and data reporting for all materials and components used in cars, including aluminium.

Given the increasing use of aluminium in automotive applications, it has become much more important for the European aluminium industry to contribute to the review of legislation concerning the increased circularity and environmental sustainability of the mobility sector.  

European Aluminium has therefore been very active in advocating for its position on this topic to the European Commission. Over the course of the past year we have, for example, organised bilateral discussions with Commission officials and responded to public and targeted consultations.

Aluminium has a vital role in making the mobility sector more circular, but to achieve its full potential as a lightweight and endlessly recyclable material, European Aluminium would like to see improvements in a few key policy areas. 

 

Our main suggestions are as follows:

  1. The revised ELV Directive should put a greater focus on improving the quality of recycled materials to ensure their reuse in closed loops and high-quality applications.
  2. Design for recycling and post-shredder separation technologies should be further incentivised.
  3. Proven aluminium solutions that can achieve the goals of making a vehicle lighter AND fully and economically recyclable already exist.
  4. The EU must take action to establish a better understanding of what happens to 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.
  5. Minimum recycled content rates for circular materials such as aluminium are counter-effective in products with long lifespans.

More details can be found here.

  

  

Batteries Regulation: contributing to a future-proof carbon footprint for electric vehicles

In 2021, the European Parliament and the European Council worked intensively on the proposal for a modernised batteries legislative framework (Batteries Regulation). Because aluminium plays a pivotal role in the design and production of state-of-the-art batteries, European Aluminium is involved in several aspects of this legislative file.

Mandatory reporting of the carbon footprint of batteries (Art. 7) is one of the most relevant parts of the regulation for the aluminium industry. To develop the necessary rules for calculating an environmental – and carbon – footprint, the Technical Secretariat for the Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules for Batteries (a cross-industry representation group established to support the Commission’s work on defining product scope and rules) has intensified the review of the existing rules.

As aluminium is a key material in the electrification of the fleet and batteries for electric vehicles, we have followed the ongoing political debate closely and contributed actively to technical discussions.

Lightweight aluminium truck door reduces weight by 40% compared to the steel reference

European Aluminium commissioned a research project from fka GMBH, a consultancy specialised in the automotive industry, on aluminium in future truck models. For the assessment, a Volvo FH cabin door was chosen as a reference assembly to analyse the performance of aluminium and steel. The cabin door was chosen as the reference component because it is a hang-on part and is therefore easily integrable into the current steel design of truck cabins. Furthermore, it has high stiffness requirements, which are similar for all OEMs, and allows the implementation of aluminium sheet, extrusion, and casting applications.

The analysis showed that the aluminium concept door performed better than the steel reference door for all considered load cases while achieving a more than 40% weight reduction compared to the steel reference door.

Watch our video on lightweighting with aluminium.

 

Packaging

European aluminium beverage can recycling rate remains at 76%, on the path to 100%

The overall recycling rate for aluminium beverage cans in the European Union, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland remained stable in 2019 at 76% (75.8%). With can consumption growing, the total amount of aluminium recycled from cans reached a record level of 488,000 tonnes, representing a total Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions saving of 4 million tonnes of CO₂. This impressive result was verified by external consultancies specialised in beverage container consumption and recycling data. Their detailed report has been published on European Aluminium’s website.  

In March 2021, the European Aluminium Packaging Group – together with Metal Packaging Europe – launched a joint Roadmap towards 100% can recycling by 2030. This ambitious target can only be reached if existing packaging collection systems in Europe are further optimised or replaced by balanced deposit return schemes (DRS) for beverage cans and other relevant beverage containers. More widespread DRS would also optimise the re-use of collected aluminium cans, which are both high quality and have a high scrap value. Although used cans are recycled into a wide range of other valuable end-use products like bikes or electrical vehicles, the most efficient solution is to use them to produce new cans.

 

Preparations started for the review of the Packaging Directive

Although the Commission’s draft proposal for the review of the EU Packaging & Packaging Waste Directive will only be announced in Spring 2022, the European packaging chain has already started to prepare by participating in a series of consultations with Eunomia, a UK based consultancy group specialised in sustainability. European Aluminium has actively participated in stakeholder workshop sessions during which ideas and proposals were discussed with representatives of the whole European packaging chain. The proposals will address and stress waste prevention, a strengthened definition of recyclability and mandatory recycled content for materials like plastics.

European Aluminium has stressed – alongside its partners in the Permanent Materials Coalition (APEAL for steel packaging and FEVE glass packaging) – the need for a definition of high-quality recycling in the revised Directive, in order to make a distinction between multi-recyclable and limited recyclable packaging material. This will enable Member States and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes to factor in this distinction in the eco-modulation of the ‘Green Dot’ fees for aluminium and other competing materials.

 

Meanwhile, some EPR schemes have started to list ‘difficult to recycle’ packaging solutions like composite (multi-material) packaging such as beverage cartons for fruit juices and yogurt pot lids. These could be subject to higher fees and even replacement by – often – mono-material plastic solutions. European Aluminium has made clear that the aluminium layer in these types of packaging can still be separated and recycled by installing a second eddy current separator in the sorting plants, combined with pre-treatment by pyrolysis of the sorted small aluminium fraction.

 

‘Every Can Counts’ awareness campaign continues to inspire consumers to recycle

Every Can Counts is a partnership between drinks can manufacturers, leading brands and the recycling industry, to inspire, encourage and empower people to recycle their drink cans wherever they are.

Despite the pandemic, ‘Every Can Counts’ remained busy across Europe, actively reinforcing its presence on social and digital channels, as well as in the print and broadcast media. Attention grabbing initiatives like its signature ‘Giant Can Rainbow’ or  ‘Pixelcan wall’ installations, combined with hands-on activations involving teams of can collection backpackers, helped to raise awareness with new audiences. Watch a video of our 2021 highlights!

Packaging

European Recycling Tour launches in 15 countries

 

On World Environment Day on 5 June, ‘Every Can Counts’ launched its first ‘European Recycling Tour’, an inspiring ‘on the go’ recycling campaign that ran simultaneously in 15 countries and 19 locations across Europe. Its purpose was to celebrate outdoor spaces and promote a more circular economy through activities such as outdoor games and dance acts.

 

Creative activities to stimulate beverage can recycling

Throughout last year, different eye-catching initiatives and art installations popped up in cities across Europe to help remind people about the importance of recycling empty beverage cans. These included a Can Art & Design Festival in Bucharest, large cage-bins to collect beverage cans at events such as the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and Pride Parade in Prague, smart can crushers in the streets of Belgrade, and a giant rainbow made from recycled cans presented in Glasgow at COP26.

‘Every Can Counts’ awareness campaign goes global

In December 2021 ‘Every Can Counts’ became a global campaign with the birth of Cada Lata Conta in Brazil. Managed by Abralatas, the Brazilian Association of Aluminium Can Manufacturers, activities kicked off with a set of environmental education and behavioural change activities in the Villa-Lobos Park in São Paulo (4-5 December), and in celebration of Carnatal in Natal (9-12 December).

 

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