For years, recycling has been an important item on political agendas worldwide. It is an important step towards a circular economy. In addition, we see that the energy transition is an accelerator for the demand for aluminum. Is green aluminum the future? And what is Vostermans Alu Foundries doing to become even more sustainable? We asked Ruud Boonstra, QESH manager (Quality, Environment, Safety and Health) at Vostermans Alu Foundries.
Increasing demand for aluminum
Where does the rising demand for aluminum come from and what does it have to do with the energy transition? "Manufacturers are increasingly looking for materials that are easy to recycle," Ruud explains. "The demand for plastic is still increasing, but there is a rising demand for alternative materials that are more recyclable, such as aluminum. In addition, you see that in electric cars more aluminum is used to compensate for the weight of the battery. And every solar panel is placed on an aluminum frame, just to name a few examples. This increasing demand for aluminum also makes it increasingly important to recycle aluminum."
How easy is it to recycle aluminum? And what do you need to take into account? "The beauty of aluminum is that you can keep recycling it indefinitely. We also simply remelt residual materials that are left behind during the manufacturing of a product for the next batch. We don't melt down unknown scrap however! This prevents us from having any impurities in between the aluminum that could affect the end result. In addition, in aluminum you have different alloys that you have to take into account. That's why we only buy recycled aluminum that meets our highest standards."
Quality of recycled aluminum
Recycled glass is no longer clear white, recycled paper turns gray and recycling plastic is also called downcycling. What about recycled aluminum? "Aluminum is ideally suited for recycling. You can continue to recycle it indefinitely without sacrificing quality. That is why it is so important, especially with the increasing demand for aluminum, that we recycle as much aluminum as possible. In Europe, about 75% of all aluminum thrown away is recycled."
Efficient production process
Doesn't remelting aluminum cost a lot of energy? "Making primary aluminum (newly mined aluminum) is not sustainable because of the high energy requirements. But manufacturing recycled aluminum takes only about 5 to 8% energy compared to manufacturing primary aluminum. This makes it even more interesting to use recycled aluminum for our casting process.”
A better climate
Global warming gets attention worldwide. What else is Vostermans Alu Foundries doing to minimize its impact on the climate? "We do several things in the area of sustainability. For example, we try to produce as efficiently as possible and we prefer to cast in large numbers. Even if this subsequently means that we have to temporarily store the overproduction. We also use second-hand pallets and only buy green energy.
Another good example is that we recently installed 2,200 solar panels on a Vostermans Ventilation building. The surplus capacity is indirectly used by us in the foundry. By the way, in this foundry we also use natural sand which we can reuse, instead of synthetic sand which is more common in the foundry world. In addition, we believe that aluminum is not a product that should be shipped all over the world. Our partners and customers can therefore be found at a relatively short distance from our organization.
These are some examples of small steps we have already taken to make our organization more sustainable, but of course it does not end here. And that makes Vostermans a company I can be proud of."