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.

Industrial emissions

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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Circular Economy

Aluminium as a permanent material has the potential to be a game changer toward a resource efficient economy. To guarantee the transition from a linear to a circular economy, Europe needs to combine its level of ambition with concrete deliveries and effective implementation.

The EU Commission’s Circular Economy Package offers a solid basis. We support the improvements in the EU waste legislation to enhance real recycling and ensure the functioning of the internal market. However, to make the circular economy work, aluminium scrap and other valuable materials need to stay in the loop. For this to happen, Europe needs to invest in innovative and thus more efficient collection, sorting and related treatment technologies in Europe.

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 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)

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) provides the best framework for assessing the potential environmental impacts of products including raw material acquisition, fabrication, transportation, use and end-of-life.

The aluminium industry is a strong supporter of LCAs and advocates for them to cover the full lifecycle of products, i.e. including environmental loads and benefits of end-of-life recycling that reflect the true value of recyclability.

To facilitate LCAs, the aluminium industry publishes environmental impact indicators for its main processes, from mining, alumina refining and electrolysis, extrusion, rolling, recycling and developed LCA models for cars and several building products according to European and International standards.

The aluminium industry is involved in LCA-based methodologies developed by the European Commission like the Product Environmental Footprint.

Our industry’s opinion on product environmental footprinting (PEF)

European Aluminium industry considers that Life Cycle Assessment in line with ISO 14044 is the most appropriate approach to assess the environmental footprint of products along their full life cycle.

We support the objective of moving towards more resource efficient production and consumption and believe that a sound and robust life cycle based assessment of activities and products can provide useful information to improve resource efficiency.

For these reasons, European Aluminium is directly engaged in the European Commission Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) initiative through two pilot projects: “Metal sheet” and “Beer”.

What we expect from the PEF method

  • That it encompasses the whole life cycle of products, including “use” and “end-of-life”, and that most relevant environmental impacts are used as the basis for footprinting assessments.
  • That the environmental benefits of materials with permanent properties after recycling, like metals, are fully and transparently recognised at the end of the life of products, consistent with the EU waste hierarchy.
  • For building applications, we call for an alignment of PEF with CEN/TC350 standards, i.e. EN 15804 and related ones, provided that recycling benefits are properly considered at end of life.

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