Aluminium is the third most abundant element in the earth’s crust and constitutes 7.3% by mass. In nature however, it only exists in very stable combinations with other materials (particularly as silicates and oxides). It was not until 1808 that its existence was first established. After years of experimentation finally, year 1854 saw the development of a viable, commercial production process.

Despite the fact that copper, lead and tin have been in use for thousands of years, today more aluminium is produced than all other non-ferrous metals combined. Annual primary production of aluminium in 2009 was around 38 million tonnes and recycled production around 20 million tonnes.

Aluminium is an extraordinary versatile material. The range of forms it can take (castings, extrusions & tubes, sheet & plate, foil, powder, forgings etc.) and a variety of surface finishes available (coating, anodizing, polishing etc.) means it lends itself to a wide range of products, many of which we use every day of our lives.

As well as its versatile form, the metal’s light weight (a third of steel). It is a good conductor of electricity (one kilogram of aluminium cable can carry twice as much electricity as one kilogram of copper). It transmits conducted heat and reflects radiant heat, making it an excellent medium from which to produce cooking utensils and foils, radiators and building insulation. Its strength, combined with low density, make it ideal for transport and packaging applications. Aluminium is a unique metal: strong, durable, flexible, impermeable, lightweight, corrosion-resistant and 100 percent recyclable.

Examples of areas where aluminium helps people and the economy to operate effectively and efficiently include air, road, rail and sea transport; food and medicine; packaging; construction; electronics and electricity transmission.

The industry employs a lifecycle approach to address the challenges of climate change, focusing not only on the energy required to produce aluminium products but also on the energy savings to be made through their use and reuse. Up to eight percent fuel savings can be realized for every 10% reduction in weight. One kilogram of aluminium, used to replace heavier materials in a car or light truck, has the potential to eliminate 20kg of CO2 over the lifetime of the vehicle. For other vehicles, such as trains, ferries and aircraft, the potential savings are even greater.

The Aluminium industry has developed a four-pronged voluntary strategy to meet the challenges of climate change, which encompasses the full lifecycle of aluminium from production, to primary use, to recycle and reuse:

1.Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from aluminium production;
2.Increase energy efficient in aluminium production;
3.Maximize used-product collection, recycling and reuse;
4.Promote the light-weighting of vehicles.

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