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KURZFASSUNGEN (FORUM WARE INTERNATIONAL)

ALUMINIUM INDUSTRIAL METABOLISM, A COMMODITY SCIENCE

CONTRIBUTION

Vera AMICARELLI, Giovanni LAGIOIA, Ottilia DE MARCO *

Keywords: industrial metabolism, aluminium end-use, material flow analysis, recycling, commodity

material composition

One way to verify the sustainability of development in the changes of the economic system is represented

by studying the industrial metabolism of the various materials. In the present study, we will analyse aluminium

distribution in different commodities in order to create an Italian aluminium flow chart; in other words, the

outlining of aluminium industrial metabolism. The results of this type of analysis can be useful in detecting

“hidden” aluminium in final products with the aim to increase the knowledge of aluminium material

circulation into technosphere through its industrial metabolism analysis.

A commodity study usually raises regular questions like: where do raw materials come from? How are they

transformed? What is their final application once they are manufactured? Thanks to current data availability

and knowledge today it is not difficult to gain information about minerals containing aluminium, extraction

processes and aluminium final applications. It is still more difficult to quantify the amount of aluminium

contained in single commodities. The availability of this information would allow an analysis of aluminium

volumes and its circulation within an economic system.

The methodology used to analyse the industrial metabolism of a commodity is that one supported by the

international bibliography. It consists in the analysis of the commodity production chain and in the description

of its circulation in the technosphere and of its final destination. On the basis of these considerations the Italian

aluminium industrial metabolism will be analysed and subsequently, through some examples, the utility of this

type of studies will be shown.

Domestic aluminium consumption today totals approximately 1.7 Mt, making Italy one of the largest

aluminium consumers in Europe. All Italian available aluminium (1.7 Mt) is destined for semis production,

most of it (approximately 0.8 Mt) is used in foundries, followed by extrusions production (0.4 Mt) and in

rolled production (0.38 Mt). Close to 80,000 t is split between various industrial sectors: the iron industry

(35,000 t), aluminium draft products (27,000 t) and other uses (18,000 t). The semis obtained (extrudes, casts,

laminates and so on) are inputs for different commodity manufacturing. They include a large variety of

finished products (windows, car chassis, drinking cans, chairs, and so on), whose final users are among sectors

including building, transportation, packaging, furnishing, electronics and so on. The major consumers of

aluminium commodities belong to the first three sectors which consumed approximately 1.2 Mt. It is of

particular importance to identify which part of the aluminium is lost during semis processing into final

products, and above all the quantity contained in each commodity (finished product). Moreover, if these data

were more accessible, it would be possible to establish which commodities might be profitably used in

aluminium recovery efforts.

Many attempts have been made to evaluate the aluminium contained in particular final products. They can

be considered the application of the proposed methodology and in the same time they underline the importance

of the knowledge of the materials contained in the commodities.

Tables included in the text show the results concerning some commodity categories: cars, scooters, personal

computers, colour TVs and refrigerators. For each category, average product weight, percentage of aluminium

contained, domestic production output, commercial balance and final consumption results are approximate. In

total, between 95,000 and 300,000 t of aluminium has been “intercepted” circulating within the Italian

economic system for the year 2001. This means a range from 6 to 18 % of Italian aluminium consumption

(over 1.7 Mt).

The ability to intercept new and old scraps depends on: consumption levels, information related to the

aluminium contained in each commodity, their average life-cycle and recovery ratio, governmental and

legislative actions and waste management.

Thanks to their intrinsic characteristics, high recovery efficiency (around 90-95 %) and short average lifecycle,

aluminium packaging represents the most significant example. In 2001 the gross domestic production of

aluminium packaging was approximately 142,000 t. In the same period its domestic consumption was

approximately 58,400 t, of which 30 % was collected separately (18,700 t). Considering the recovery ratio of

packaging, it will be possible to “intercept” from 15,000 to 17,500 t of aluminium.

The above examples allow us to identify from 207,000 to 520,000 t of aluminium contained in certain

commodities, which during the period 2001-2002 became waste. If this waste were processed, on the basis of

FORUM WARE 32 (2004) NR. 1 - 4

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