The role of automobiles for the future of aluminium recycling

To reach required product qualities with lowest costs, aluminum postconsumer scrap is currently recycled using strategies of downgrading and dilution, due to difficulties in refining. These strategies depend on a continuous and fast growth of the bottom reservoir of the aluminum downgrading cascade, which is formed by secondary castings, mainly used in automotive applications. A dynamic material flow model for the global vehicle system was developed to assess the likelihood, timing, and extent of a potential scrap surplus. The results demonstrate that a continuation of the above-mentioned strategies will lead to a nonrecyclable scrap surplus by around 2018 ± 5 if no additional measures are taken. The surplus could grow to reach a level of 0.4-2 kg/cap/yr in 2050, corresponding to a loss of energy saving potential of 43-240 TWh/yr electricity. Various intervention options for avoiding scrap surplus are discussed. Effective strategies need to include an immediate and rapid penetration of dramatically improved scrap sorting technologies for end-of-life vehicles and other aluminum applications.