The demand for aluminium products is growing steadily in the Middle East because of their positive contribution to modern living. Aluminium finds extensive use almost all walks of life including transport, food and medicine, packaging, construction, electronics and electrical power transmission. Infact, the use of aluminum exceeds that of any other metal except iron. Aluminium is the second most widely used metal whereas the aluminium can is the most recycled consumer product in the world.
Disposal Woes and Recycling Potential
Disposal of aluminium wastes is a challenging task as aluminium exposed to fires at dumpsites can be a serious environmental problem in the form of poisonous gases and mosquito breeding. Recycled aluminium can be utilized for almost all applications, and can preserve raw materials and reduce toxic emissions, apart from significant energy conservation.
Aluminum has a high market value and continues to provide an economic incentive to recycle it. The excellent recyclability of aluminium, together with its high scrap value and the low energy needs during recycling make aluminium lightweight solutions highly desirable.
The contribution of the recycled metal to the global output of aluminium products has increased from 17 percent in 1960 to 34 percent today, and expected to rise to almost 40 percent by 2020. Global recycling rates are high, with approximately 90 per cent of the metal used for transport and construction applications recovered, and over 60 per cent of used beverage cans are collected.
Aluminium does not degrade during the recycling process, since its atomic structure is not altered during melting. Aluminium recycling is both economically and environmentally effective, as it requires a lot less energy to recycle than it does to mine, extract and smelt aluminium ore. Recycled aluminium requires only 5% of the energy used to make primary aluminium, and can have the same properties as the parent metal. However, in the course of multiple recycling, more and more alloying elements are introduced into the metal cycle. This effect is put to good use in the production of casting alloys, which generally need these elements to attain the desired alloy properties.
The industry has a long tradition of collecting and recycling used aluminium products. Over the years, USA and European countries have developed robust separate collection systems for aluminium packaging with a good degree of success. Recycled aluminium can made into aircraft, automobiles, bicycles, boats, computers, cookware, gutters, siding, wire and cans.
Middle East, especially GCC, is responsible for generation of huge amount of aluminium wastes each year. The enormity of the problem can be gauged from the fact more than 500 million beverage cans are used in UAE alone, out of which only 5% is recycled while the rest goes to scrap dealers or landfills. Middle East has a very strong aluminium industry which could benefit a lot from aluminium recycling initiatives. Recycling of aluminium is a long-term viable option for the region as it reduces the need for raw materials and use of valuable fossil fuels.