Monday, November 8, 2021

Aluminum Lesson

I learned a lot about aluminum (and its recycling) from this column about local recycler Spectro Alloys by Star Tribune business columnist Neal St. Anthony.

While I knew the metal is made from bauxite, that it's commonly recycled, and that recycling is greatly better than using new ores for environmental reasons, I didn't know that "more than two-thirds of aluminum ever produced is still in use today...thanks to reuse and recycling." 

Unfortunately, that still only accounts for half of the aluminum used per year, with the other half entering as new material coming from Chinese ores "produced by coal power." (Half! We're consuming too much… and we could recycle even more.)

The company profiled, while recently paying a fine to the EPA for pollution-control violations, has (according to St. Anthony) gone beyond requirements in improving their plant. They'll no longer cool the 28-pound recycled ingots with powered fans, they'll heat the new addition to their plant with waste heat from the production process, they'll decrease truck traffic to and from the new plant, and they're installing solar panels.

Their ingots are made from all U.S.- (and a bit Canada) sourced material. The company president claims that compared to imported Chinese aluminum, "We use 95% less energy and generate 95% less carbon dioxide."

They're also hiring people without experience. "We'll teach people to drive a forklift and other jobs." He cites pay between $50,000 and $75,000 and "phenomenal" health insurance. 

And part of the story is about the fact that demand exists for their product, as companies look to claim recycled content in their products. 

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