We still need good and efficient primary aluminium smelters
Aluminium can be remelted and recycled over and over again and increasing amounts of aluminium scrap from end-of-life products come back into the supply chain. Does this mean that we could stop production of primary aluminium and only build recycling plants?
The answer to this question is a clear no, as the amount of end-of-life products is far too low to cover the increasing demand for aluminium.
Some products, like beverage cans, have short lifetimes and are quickly transferred from product service to valuable post-consumer scrap for remelting and recycling. However, many aluminium applications have long lifetimes, like buildings that can have 50 years of lifetime or cars that are on the roads for 15-20 years.
Due to the durability and long lifetime of aluminium, most products take a long time before they come back for recycling. This, in combination with the very strong demand growth of aluminium due to its excellent properties, means that only about 30 percent of the aluminium demand can presently be met with recycled aluminium. The rest needs to be primary metal.
It will be like this for many years to come, even though we know that recycling is and will definitely be the future. How far in the future? There are predictions that the returned scrap from products will balance the need for new products in a 50-to-100-year perspective, so we are going to need good and efficient smelters for many years to come.
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