The closed-loop recycling of aluminium drink cans is well- established and widely promoted, not only in the UK but worldwide, as an example of how and why recycling works. Less well publicised is the closed loop recycling of aluminium in other industrial sectors, with the automotive industry being a prime example.
It has been said that, in the 20th century, the car dramatically changed society; but that in the 21st century, society will dramatically change the car. Consumers are pressing for vehicles that perform better, yet are cheaper to run and kinder on the environment, as well as being easier and safer to drive.
It is no coincidence, therefore, that this is one of the aluminium industry's fastest growing markets. The metal's lightweight but durable properties give it a competitive edge over traditional materials used in vehicle design and construction, allowing manufacturers to offer a combination of improved performance and durability with greater fuel efficiency and lower emissions.
The world's largest aluminium beverage can recycler Novelis (formerly Alcan) provides closed-loop recycling for the automotive industry through its Warrington recycling centre. Situated alongside the used beverage can operation, the company's general products plant recycles numerous grades of aluminium and produces alloys that are used in a wide range of industries.
In the automotive industry, Jaguar is a leader in successfully marrying driving performance with environ- mental responsibility. In 2002, the company launched the award-winning XJ saloon, the first production car manufactured in accordance with the company's Light Weight Vehicle Strategy.
The car's body is made almost entirely from aluminium, leading to a weight reduction of 40%, or 200kg, compared with an equivalent steel body. The weight reduction has meant increased fuel efficiency and lower emissions - typical CO2 emissions for the XJ are less than 250g/km2. These are 15% lower when compared with competitor vehicles in the premium petrol segment of the market. Jaguar calculates that the decision to use aluminium will result in total greenhouse gas savings of more than 600,000 tonnes.*
The all-aluminium XJ series is manufactured mainly at Jaguar's Castle Bromwich plant in the West Midlands. Body panels are pressed from laser-cut aluminium sheet (alloy AA6111) supplied by Novelis from its plant in Nachterstedt, Germany. Jaguar's production line is equipped to sort the off-cuts from the pressing operation, allowing the company to supply the Novelis recycling plant with loads of a specific alloy. Two other aluminium alloys are also supplied by Novelis for the model and the scrap taken back for recycling.
The 6111 metal is recycled into ingots of the same alloy and, to close the loop, the ingots are then shipped to the Novelis rolling system for processing back into high-quality automotive sheet.
But the recycling story does not stop there. Mark White, manager of body-in-white design for Jaguar, explains: "Having an all-aluminium body for the Jaguar is good news at the end of the vehicle's life as well
as during its production. With its high residual value, recycling aluminium is both environmentally and financially sustainable, saving up to 95% energy. This winning combination will make a significant contribution to meeting J