From cradle to cradle: DecoWood aluminium and the environment

News /
13 December 2011
From cradle to cradle: DecoWood aluminium and the environment

The International Aluminium Institute has compiled the findings from global research into the sustainability of aluminium, revealing that building products such as DecoWood timber look aluminium are more sustainable than you might think.

While the life cycle of most building products is referred to as "cradle to grave", the recyclability of aluminium has largely closed the loop to ensure aluminium building products head back to the cradle once it reaches the end of its long useful life.

Approximately 75 per cent of all the aluminium ever produced is still being used in some form, having been through countless loops of its life cycle. Aluminium can be recycled an unlimited number of times with negligible losses of properties so that recycled aluminium can be as strong and durable as virgin metal.

The high value of aluminium scrap is giving demolishers an added incentive to recycle the material. It is estimated that there is about 400 million tonnes of aluminium worldwide currently in use which can be recycled for use by future generations.

While aluminium has a high embedded energy, the recycling process only requires 5 per cent of the energy used for primary production. Furthermore, the industry is sourcing more of its electrical energy from renewable sources such as hydropower than ever before. The increased use of hydropower has resulted in a 17 per cent decrease in carbon dioxide emissions since 2000.

Significant reductions in total greenhouse gas emissions have been recorded in the last two decades despite an increase in the production of aluminium. For example, Perfluorocarbon emissions shrunk by 86 per cent between 1990 and 2006, and the industry is aiming to reduce emissions by a further 50 per cent by 2020.

Recent information is showing that bauxite mining is considered land area footprint neutral, as the annual rehabilitation area of existing bauxite mining areas is equal to the average annual area being opened up. Rehabilitation involves restoring land to its pre-mining state using native flora and fauna, or alternatively any other use that benefits the local community.

Aluminium is a versatile material that can be decorated in a number of finishes, including the DecoWood timber look finish, which prevents the need to use timber in building applications. Not only does the use of timber threaten biodiversities through logging, the painting and staining processes required for building products releases harmful greenhouse gases. Timber is also not able to be recycled without losses of properties as aluminium is.

For more information about DecoWood visit For more information on the sustainability of aluminium in building applications visit the Green Building website

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