Davis Index: Market Intelligence for the Global Metals and Recycled Materials Markets

Alcoa, Novelis, and Norsk Hydro plan to increase the aluminum recycling rate from 47pc to 75pc and invest in innovative technology for sustainable production.


Speaking during a panel discussion on sustainability practices at Aluminum Association’s (AA’s) 2021 virtual Spring Meeting, Ben Kahrs, executive vice president and chief innovation officer at Alcoa, Beatriz Landa,  Vice President of Metal Procurement & Recycling for Novelis North America, and Hans Erik Vatne, chief technology officer at Norsk Hydro concurred that recycling would be an integral strategy for the three aluminum giants to achieve net-zero carbon neutrality. 


Aluminum Smelting

Kahrs highlighted that the technology to make low-carbon aluminum being used by Elysis, Alcoa’s joint venture with Rio Tinto made the Elysis brand 15pc more cost effective, greener and more productive than the aluminum made through a traditional smelting process. He added that the technology could eliminate 6.5mn mt of greenhouse gases annually and produce pure oxygen. Elysis is slated to be commercially available by 2024.


Aluminum Recycling

On its part, Novelis is aiming for a 30pc reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and net-zero carbon neutrality by 2050, Landa noted, in its quest to provide low-carbon sustainable solutions for aluminum recycling. The company has reduced greenhouse gases, water intensity, non-dross wastage to landfills, and energy intensity by 31pc, 26pc, 40pc, and 25pc, respectively. Novelis’ current aluminum recycling rate stands at 59pc across all products and it plans to increase this by 10pc in the near term. 


Landa noted that the company’s technical innovations like closed-loop systems are leading to new aluminum alloys with 80-90pc more recyclable content. 


Finished Aluminum

Norwegian aluminum producer Norsk Hydro has developed two proprietary carbon-free products, Hydro Reduxa and Hydro Circal, according to Vatne. 


Hydro Reduxa has a maximum carbon footprint of 4kg of CO2/kilo of aluminum, a quarter of the global average, Vatne said adding that the products are sourced from hydropower and other renewables. On the other hand, Hydro Circal is a range of aluminum products made from recyclable, post-consumer scrap with carbon emissions of 2.3 per kg of aluminum. 


Both Landa and Vatne agreed that companies have to be willing to innovate, explore, and implement innovative techniques in the future. The biggest challenges and opportunities risks in achieving sustainable aluminum production were material competition for iron, retrofitting existing gas smelters, shifting from traditional electric furnaces, and getting the metal back into the value chain after recycling. Landa reiterated that there is a global need for producers to collaborate and ramp up sustainable production of aluminum.


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