A third-party critical-reviewed life-cycle assessment (LCA) report shows that the energy and carbon impact of aluminum production in North America has dropped to its lowest point in history. Since 1991, the carbon footprint of primary aluminum production declined by 49%, while the footprint of recycled aluminum production dropped by 60%. During the same time period, the energy needed to produce primary and recycled (or secondary) aluminum has dropped by 27% and 49%, respectively.

Between 2010 and 2016 alone, the carbon footprint of aluminum production (primary and secondary) declined between 5-21%.cAccording to the report, aluminum produced in North America, which relies heavily on renewable hydropower, is among the cleanest in the world.

The Environmental Footprint of Semi-Fabricated Aluminum Products in North America LCA report, developed in cooperation with sustainability consultancy Sphera, quantifies all material, energy use and environmental release impacts over the entire aluminum product life cycle, from raw material acquisition to end-of-life recycling and/or disposal. The study considers cradle-to-gate and cradle-to-grave life-cycle stages. The report is based on aluminum and aluminum products manufactured in North America in 2016.  

According to the LCA report, raw material aluminum production – including both primary and recycled metal – represents the single largest element of the industry’s environmental impact for product manufacturing and has improved most substantially in the recent years. The impact of semi-fabricated aluminum production has also improved. Technological advancements including manufacturing process controls, efficiency improvements due to economies of scale, the phasing out of old smelting technologies and the replacement of coal-fired for renewable electricity in smelting have all contributed to this positive trend.

A graphic summary of the report’s key takeaways is available here