Going green: Aluminium’s role in green applications for sustainable development

Updated: October 31, 2019 1:32:36 AM

Large businesses across industries are constantly on the lookout for greener alternatives that can aid the implementation of sustainable business models.

As it is empowering and driving sustainable initiatives, the demand for aluminium across different sectors is expected to grow by 8% CAGR in the next five years (Representational image)As it is empowering and driving sustainable initiatives, the demand for aluminium across different sectors is expected to grow by 8% CAGR in the next five years (Representational image)

By UC Dosi

Today, world economies are growing rapidly, and the need for sustainable development is far more pertinent than ever before. The on-going dialogue for sustainable living has inspired and encouraged governments, businesses as well as individuals to ensure that the current development demands do not hamper the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

While countries have collectively made progress at meeting the United Nations goals, situation is grim. According to the Sustainable Development Goals Report 2018, economic losses were worth $300 billion in 2017, three in 10 people in developing countries lack access to safe drinking water, four in 10 lack access to clean cooking fuels and technologies, world hunger is on the rise again, and 4.2 million people died from air pollution in 2016. Sustainable development is, thus, a need of the hour.

Large businesses across industries are constantly on the lookout for greener alternatives that can aid the implementation of sustainable business models. Since aluminium is the third most abundant material on earth after oxygen and silicon, making up 8% of the earth’s crust, it has successfully filled this gap by providing greener options to industries like construction, automobile, electrical and packaging. While aluminium is not as cost-effective as plastic and steel, it is 100% recyclable, durable, and energy-efficient; it also has the smallest total carbon footprint among competing materials.

Aluminium has been at the helm of green applications in the last decade. To achieve lower carbon footprints, countries are extensively using aluminium for the following:

Green Buildings: Green buildings have gained popularity over the last five years, and this revolution is heavily backed by aluminium. Aluminium’s strength makes it the first choice for structural frameworks, while its reflectivity makes the buildings more energy efficient. The recycling rate for aluminium in the construction industry is 95%, making it a key component of LEED-certified buildings. It also enhances the solar efficiency and minimises air leakage through aluminium fenestration. It is an excellent alternative to metals like steel in the manufacturing of green buildings.

Electric Vehicles: Aluminium is expected to accelerate worldwide adoption of electric vehicles, making it one of the most sought-after metals in the automobile industry, as it is crash absorbent, durable, corrosion-resistant, easily formable and infinitely recyclable. By virtue of being light-weight, aluminium reduces the mass weight of a vehicle, thereby making it more fuel-efficient. It plays an instrumental role in reducing the CO2 emissions from electric vehicles and thereby improving the air quality. Furthermore, the thermal and anti-corrosion properties of aluminium make it an ideal component for battery frames. These light-weighted vehicles are also expected to meet the safety requirements given its structural strength and can be fully recycled while emitting 1.5 tonnes fewer greenhouse gases over its lifecycle.

Aluminium Packaging: Aluminium’s ability to be extruded or rolled into any shape, and its insulating properties, make it a versatile choice of metal for packaging. This non-toxic green metal can be rolled up to eight times thinner than a banknote! With the recent ban on single-use plastic in India, aluminium is increasingly being used for packaging, like foils, packaging, etc. It also reduces shipping costs and carbon emissions for beverage makers. Alloys of series 1xxx, 3xxx, and 8xxxx are the most common forms found in packaging that have a shelf-life exceeding 12 months.

With the advent of energy-efficient technology, countries like India need to adopt a green-mindset. India currently exudes 5.7% of the total global emissions and is progressing towards lowering that number. The use of aluminium presents the excellent potential for increasing the sustainable use of energy. As it is empowering and driving sustainable initiatives, the demand for aluminium across different sectors is expected to grow by 8% CAGR in the next five years.

The writer is Chief General Manager (Operations), Jindal Aluminium Limited

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