Long-term strategies for increased recycling of automotive aluminium and its alloying elements

Aluminum recycling currently occurs in a cascading fashion, where some alloys, used in a limited number of applications, absorb most of the end-of-life scrap. An expected increase in scrap supply in coming decades necessitates restructuring of the aluminum cycle to open up new recycling paths for alloys and avoid a potential scrap surplus. This paper explores various interventions in end-of-life management and recycling of automotive aluminum, using a dynamic substance flow analysis model of aluminum and its alloying elements with resolution on component and alloy level (vehicle-component-alloy-element model). It was found that increased component dismantling before vehicle shredding can be an effective, so far underestimated, intervention in the medium term, especially if combined with development of safety-relevant components such as wheels from secondary material. In the long term, automatic alloy sorting technologies are most likely required, but could at the same time reduce the need for magnesium removal in refining. Cooperation between the primary and secondary aluminum industries, the automotive industry, and end-of-life vehicle dismantlers is therefore essential to ensure continued recycling of automotive aluminum and its alloying elements.

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