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Interview with Magdalena Garczyńska Trends in Aluminum Recycling

Editor: Isabell Page

The International Aluminium Recycling Congress will take place in Colmar from 26 to 27 February 2019. Exclusively prior to the event, Magdalena Garczyńska, Director Recycling at European Aluminium, gave us insights into market developments and their impact on the industry.

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The International Aluminium Recycling Congress will take place in Colmar from 26 to 27 February 2019.
The International Aluminium Recycling Congress will take place in Colmar from 26 to 27 February 2019.
(Source: IARC / www.davidadamsonphotography.com)

SPOTLIGHTMETAL: The International Aluminium Recycling Congress (IARC) has now been held for almost 30 years. How has the market for aluminum recycling changed during this time?

Magdalena Garczyńska: Thirty years ago, recycling was considered a dirty business by businesses and consumers. Even today we don’t talk about scrap, we talk about waste. These words have a negative meaning while this is all about raw materials. However, we can see a shift: there are different initiatives for raw materials, and even more importantly we have the European circular economy framework. Furthermore, sustainability gained in importance. Our industry has a clear and open agenda on sustainability. Four years ago, our industry adopted its Sustainability Roadmap towards 2025, with concrete objectives and milestones. It paints a clear picture of how our members want to deliver on environmental targets, social targets and best practices in manufacturing. Most importantly, the volume of scrap exported to third countries has dramatically increased over the years, which seriously hampers our ability to create a circular economy in Europe. Europe has become a net exporter of scrap since 2012. More than 80 % of exports go to Asia: China first, then India and Pakistan. Although demand from China is slowing down, other countries in the region have increased their demand.

SPOTLIGHTMETAL: Are there innovations to limit the increasing trade in aluminum scrap?

Magdalena Garczyńska: One of the recent breakthroughs in aluminum sorting technology is the development of a technology for the industrial separation of aluminum alloys. It bridges the need of our industry to recycle even more secondary scrap and has the potential of tackling a potential market oversupply of scrap. However, the sorting solutions to process different grades, qualities and alloys of aluminum scrap still need to become more affordable. We also need to innovate in energy efficient furnaces, which maximise the metal yield through better control of the melting conditions.

SPOTLIGHTMETAL: Apart from groundbreaking innovations: Which technology trends influence the development of aluminum recycling?

Magdalena Garczyńska: Certainly, digitalisation plays a role. In order to promote synergies and address industrial challenges, there are already some networks to exploit data and digital twins for efficient product manufacturing. The digital twin concept in control and monitoring allows real-time simulation of the process, advanced control and remote expertise. There are challenges for the process and manufacturing industries where digitalisation can help like for example connection with operational excellence. Digital data collection allows better understanding control of the process performance. The recycling industry faces technical challenges both in making further efficiency improvements to melting and purification systems and in ensuring a steady and reliable scrap stream. Most new aluminum scrap, also known as pre-consumer scrap, arrives at the recycling facility directly from product manufacturing. Old aluminum scrap, also called post-consumer scrap, comes into the recycling industry via a diversified network of metal merchants and waste management companies equipped with the technology to recover aluminum from vehicles, household goods, etc. Recyclers use a combination of rotary and reverberatory furnaces that represent about 90 % of their furnace technology, while induction technology use is marginal. The solidification process is closely related to melting and recycling and is also crucial in the aluminum value chain, playing a significant role in the productivity, quality, and efficiency of production. Therefore, ingot casting and continuous casting challenges are elements that shape the technology trends in this sector. New technologies for the aluminum industry should focus on the generation of high-quality aluminum scrap flows from contaminated or mixed scrap flows, facilitation of closed-loop recycling within alloy groups, increasing the quality and composition of the melt before casting (analysis), and improving control of the recycled aluminum quality.

SPOTLIGHTMETAL: What influence have these developments of recent years had on the current orientation of the IARC?

Magdalena Garczyńska: The International Aluminium Recycling Congress has always been a platform to address new challenges, technological changes and innovations. Since the launch of the EU’s Circular Economy Package in 2014, the circular economy has been the overarching theme of our conferences. Trade issues such as the export of scrap have also become more prominent on the agenda. Lastly, we are focusing more and more on creating a dialogue between different parts of the value chain by introducing roundtable discussions between participants.

SPOTLIGHTMETAL: How will the market for aluminum recycling develop in the future?

Magdalena Garczyńska: Today, about eight million tonnes of aluminum scrap is recycled in Europe by both refining and remelting industry. Over the years, the volume of scrap intake has constantly increased. For instance, in comparison with 2012, the volume of scrap recycled today in Europe increased by almost 20 %. The division between remelters and refiners is about 64-to-36-per-cent. Last year, preliminary data indicated that the volume of scrap used by the European smelters increased by about 5 % driven by both pre and post-consumer scrap. The situation in the refining industry is more complex. Last year, preliminary data indicated a decrease of both refining production and the volume of scrap used. The decrease is affecting both pre and post-consumer scrap.

For more information visit the International Aluminium Recycling Congress.

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