Tomra Recycling explores future of global aluminium industry
Tomra Recycling’s Segment Managers for Metal Recycling, Tom Jansen and Terence Keyworth, were joined by guest speakers, Patrik Ragnarsson, Senior Manager Automotive and Transport at European Aluminium, and Edward George, Commercial Manager at Alutrade Ltd.
Ragnarsson kicked off the session by highlighting the fact that the switch to electric vehicles has happened much faster than predicted, driven in part by the strict CO2 regulations set by the European Commission’s (EC). The targets are currently set at a 15% reduction for 2025 and 37.5% for 2030 – based on 2021 levels. However, Ragnarsson stated that European Aluminium anticipates even more stringent targets to be introduced this summer to align with recently introduced climate targets.
Ragnarsson explained that those car manufacturers who are unable to meet these targets will face hefty fines, so they need to use every available means to reduce CO2 emissions, which is why light-weighting is becoming increasingly important. He also stated that car manufacturers are also being incentivised to sell more zero and low emission vehicles, such as electric vehicles.
Keyworth then highlighted that demand for aluminium in Europe is anticipated to grow to around 18 million tonnes by 2050 – an increase of more than 40% compared to 2018. Keyworth explained that there would be significant growth in the automotive, construction and packaging sectors. In the automotive sector, light-weighting of vehicles will be the key driver, while in the construction sector, there will be greater focus on more energy efficient buildings to comply with the EU Green Deal. And in the packaging industry, collection and recycling rates for aluminium beverage containers will have to increase. All these factors will lead to a growth in demand for recycled aluminium.
Jansen then provided participants with an overview of the latest sorting technologies for aluminium scrap which are set to play a crucial role in achieving the goal of increasing aluminium recycling rates as set out in the European Aluminium VISION 2050 report. Jansen highlighted the advances in X-ray Transmission (XRT) technology for sorting and upgrading various types of aluminium scrap, including Zorba, Twitch and shredded aluminium profiles and sheets. He also highlighted the benefits for remelters when using high quality aluminium scrap sorted by X-ray transmission, including consistent quality, reduced energy consumption, reduced furnace cleaning requirements and increased production capacity or tap-to-tap time.
Jansen cited the example of an aluminium remelter who, following the installation of XRT technology, increased the amount of post-consumer scrap used for remelting from 25 – 50%, resulting in increased profits of €1.5 million annually. At the same time, the remelter’s energy consumption reduced by 6% and its production capacity increased by 2% – resulting in a €1 million increase in revenues.
Participants heard about TOMRA Recycling’s X-TRACT X6 FINES sorting machine which includes a high-resolution sensor to provide sharper X-ray images than the standard XRT version and offers higher precision on small and thin objects such as copper wire. Jansen also told participants about TOMRA’s X-TRACT unit for magnesium removal which enables the removal of magnesium and the superlights fractions from aluminium to create cleaner aluminium fractions and process material with more stable output quality.
Keyworth then emphasised the clear need for all sectors of the aluminium industry to increase the amount of recycled aluminium being used in new products, and reiterated that sensor-based technology will play a vital role in helping the industry increase aluminium recycling rates to achieve the low carbon roadmap set out in the European Aluminium Vision 2050 report.
Tomra’s second guest contributor was Edward George, Commercial Manager at Alutrade Ltd, a specialist aluminium recycler in the UK. 70% of Alutrade’s business is aluminium extrusion and 30% is aluminium can-to-can recycling, with the material sorted, cleaned then sold to remelters around the world to be melted back into aluminium cans.
George stated that Alutrade Ltd has witnessed increasing demand for aluminium for both residential and commercial use in the building sector as businesses take advantage of the thermal, UV and aesthetic benefits that aluminium offers when used in windows, doors and curtain walling. He explained how sensor-based sorting technology has changed the way the company processes material. Using X-ray technology from TOMRA Recycling, Alutrade can now process upwards of 100 tonnes per month of post-consumer waste from demolished buildings or replacement windows and doors. The aluminium found in these items contains other metals such as copper, brass and zinc which previously had to manually separated. Now, using X-ray technology, Alutrade is able to meet high demand from the global fenestration sector for high purity pre-consumer and post-consumer aluminium scrap, offering a full closed loop recycling solution.