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Audi and BMW Group join Aluminium Stewardship Initiative; seeking a standard for sustainable aluminum

AUDI AG and the BMW Group, along with Hydro and Rexam, have joined the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) to help develop a global standard for sustainable aluminum. Aluminium is the world’s second most used metal after steel, and is of specific importance to the automotive industry due to its combination of its light weight, durability and strength.

The Aluminium Stewardship Initiative was founded in the autumn of 2012 and aims to develop the first version of a sustainability standard for aluminum by the end of 2014, with the support of the environmental organization IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). Founding members of the Initiative are AMCOR Flexibles, AMAG, Constantia Flexibles, Constellium, Nespresso, Rio Tinto Alcan, and Tetra Pak.

Aluminum production
Aluminium is the third most abundant element in the earth’s crust (approx. 8%), according to the European Aluminium Association.
Bauxite—composed primarily of one or more aluminium hydroxide compounds, plus silica, iron and titanium oxides as the main impurities—is the common raw material for aluminium production. Bauxite is used to produce aluminium oxide (alumina) via the Bayer chemical process and subsequently aluminium through the Hall-Héroult electrolytic process.
On a world-wide average, 4 to 5 tonnes of bauxite are needed to produce two tonnes of alumina, from which one tonne of aluminium can be produced.
Some 160 million tonnes of bauxite are mined each year, mainly by open-cast mining, which has a variable and highly site-specific effect on the local environment. The area affected by bauxite mining is about 160m²/kt.
The use of the Bayer chemical process in alumina refineries—often located near the bauxite mines—releases the aluminum oxide from the other substances in bauxite in a caustic soda solution, which is filtered to remove all insoluble particles. The aluminium hydroxide is then precipitated from the soda solution, washed and dried while the soda solution is recycled. After calcination, the end-product is a fine grained white powder.
Liquid aluminium is extracted from alumina in reduction plants (“smelters”) by the Hall-Héroult process. This process operates at around 950 °C in a cryolite bath under high intensity electrical current. This process takes place in electrolytic cells (“pots”), where carbon cathodes form the bottom of the pot. Anodes are held at the top of the pot and are consumed during the process when they react with the oxygen coming from the alumina.
At regular intervals, molten aluminium tapped from the pots is transported to the cast house where it is alloyed in holding furnaces by the addition of other metals (according to users’ needs), cleaned of oxides and gases, and then cast into ingots. These can take the form of extrusion billets, for extruded products, or rolling ingots, for rolled products, depending on the way it is to be further processed. Aluminium mould castings are produced by foundries which use this technique to manufacture shaped components.

The standard will define principles and performance criteria in the area of governance, environmental and social practices. The ASI encompasses three standard-setting groups for upstream, downstream and chain of custody (CoC), the last to allow a coherent and integrated linkage of information between the different stages of the value chain.

The first focuses on upstream activities, beginning with the mining of bauxite to the production of the primary aluminium metal. The second looks at downstream industries such as metal transformation and finishing companies, as well as remelters. The last group focuses on the chain of custody (CoC) to ensure accountability and credibility of the standard.

For each of these three streams an independent consultant will develop a draft of the Standard. These independent consultants will investigate best practice in existing standards as well as identifying issues not covered by these standards. They also have access to the relevant expert and business networks to ensure the identification of any further relevant material. As the ASI co-ordinator, IUCN will consolidate the draft standards from these three streams, including input from the multi-stakeholder process. The ASI co-ordinator will also organize the stakeholder mapping and outreach program.

The standard will also include a range of principles applicable for all actors involved in the aluminium value chain that can be used to achieve an optimal life cycle management of aluminium containing products. Particularly, it will consider how material recovery and recycling after the end of life of aluminium containing products can contribute to resource efficiency and minimizing impact.

To support the credibility of the ASI Standard, the members of the initiative have committed to follow the ISEAL’s Standard-Setting Code (V5.0), which establishes rules for legitimate and effective standard-setting processes.

As a pioneer for lightweight construction, we are very interested in establishing a global standard for sustainable aluminum. This will allow us to further improve the environmental impact of our cars by using certified aluminum in the future. Active responsibility is firmly anchored throughout our company. Also in our supply chains, we place priority on the integration of environmental protection and social responsibility.

—Dr. Bernd Martens, Audi’s Board of Management Member for Procurement

Comments

HarveyD

Aluminum per given weight may be slightly more costly than high quality steel but since it is much lighter, it will do relatively more.

Composite car bodies on aluminum frames and wheels and many aluminum parts could reduce total vehicle weight by close to 50%. The average mid-size car could weight 3400/2 = 1700 lbs and would use a lot less energy.

Aluminum can be recycled over and over again.

SimonDM

Aluminum per weight is a lot more costly than steel, only because you need less of it, it doesn't cost THAT much more.

HarveyD

We both agree.

A good start would be with aluminum frames, exhaust systems and wheels.

Lighter composites could replace most of the steel body components.

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