Lightness, electrical, thermal and sound conductivity. These are the properties that make aluminium a precious raw material: it is excellent for processing and lends itself well to all mechanical processing, from lamination to shot blasting. The industrial sector that uses this material the most is the automotive industry. Aluminium is used for forging bodywork, engine components, pumps, wheels, box containers, bumpers, finishes and many other vehicle components.

Recycled aluminium retains all its original properties: non-toxicity, the absence of magnetism, workability (it can be moulded more easily than other metals) and versatility (it can be used in various rigid or elastic alloys). Aluminium can be 100% recycled and re-used endlessly to make new products. Recycling aluminium saves 95% of the energy used in the extraction and processing of bauxite. It takes 15 kWh to produce 1 kilo of primary aluminium, but only 0.75 kWh to produce recycled aluminium. In the automotive sector, 90% of the aluminium used to produce wheel rims is recycled and 30% of the aluminium used to make pistons and cylinders is recycled; on average, 40% of the aluminium used from the beginning to the end of the car production process is recycled.

Aluminium waste is sent to the separation and initial treatment plant. Here it is separated from any magnetic metals (iron) or different materials (glass, plastic etc.). After initial inspection of its quality, it is pre-treated in a foundry at about 500°C to remove any paint and other adherent foreign substances. It is then fused in a furnace at a temperature of 800°C. The aluminium, now in its liquid state, is then transformed into ingots and re-enters the production cycle.

The price of energy today is a factor that makes recycling crucial in the automotive industry. The United States and Japan excel in recycling aluminium, followed by Italy and Germany. It is no coincidence that these countries are the world’s key players in the automotive industry. China is also increasing its percentage of recovery and use of recycled aluminium of the total amount processed.

Many industrial companies have begun to adapt their production processes to optimise recovery. One such example is Turbotecnica Engineering, an Italian company, which, for more than thirty years, has been designing and manufacturing all types of shot blast machine, professional sandblasters and sandblasting chambers, either standard or customised to meet the needs of end users – including automotive industries and professional workshops – for the Italian and the international market. All the systems produced by Turbotecnica are equipped with innovative systems to eliminate waste and all impurities arising from the mixture of abrasive materials and extracted air. Residues from processing are automatically collected for disposal or recycling.

Thanks to ongoing research into the development of recycling and pre- and post-consumer recovery technologies (which can be used to drastically reduce CO2 emissions), the automotive recycled aluminium sector has become important on the world scene from an economic, employment and strategic point of view.

Recycling aluminium in the global automotive industry