Opinion

There’s a green gloss to aluminium

RK Jain | Updated on April 11, 2021

Aluminium Sustainable metal   -  AFP

This wonder metal powers a circular economy with low energy use and emission levels

When it comes to sustainability and maintaining a healthy environmental footprint, the one metal that is talked of is aluminium.

It is capable of playing a vital role in creating a climate-neutral world and support sustainable development.

In India, the Prime Minister has set a goal of taking the country forward even while reducing its carbon footprint by 30-35 per cent through the use of green energy. However, TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute) cautions that the the metal (mining) industry is emitting vast quantities of carbon-dioxide into the air and that in some sectors this is set to triple by 2050.

Emissions from the production of primary aluminium, ferroalloys, lead, zinc and magnesium have been studied and find a mention in the second biennial report that India submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in 2018. Aluminium is the second most used metal in the world after steel. And it is a fact that 75 per cent of all aluminium ever produced in the world is still in use. Though producing primary aluminium consumes enormous amounts of energy besides the impact of mining and waste discharge on the ecology, the lower carbon footprint of the metal is due to its recyclability, and use of cleaner, not fossil, fuels to power primary production that also help decarbonise. Some companies are even trying to use solar power for producing primary aluminium which, if successful, will reduce the carbon footprints of the metal considerably.

Need for change

While aluminium is a critical metal for world’s commitment towards achieving the 2015 Paris Accord of working towards a low- carbon footprint, a NITI Aayog paper on the aluminium industry in India records the fact of it being the fastest-growing metal that offers a choice to a variety of sectors. Aluminium’s capability of promoting a sustainable future and lowering carbon footprint through its quality downstream products speak for its sustainability quotient and meeting India’s environmental goals.

Aluminium with its unique charecterstics offers many downstream products . This wonder metal has proven itself as durable with a 50-year-lifespan that powers a circular economy as well with low energy use and emission levels. The manufacture of downstream products has undergone a sea change with sustainable processes in place. LPG and natural gas now fuel what once required diesel and furnace oil. Use of renewable energy, plant waste mitigation and automation are also part of the new manufacturing process.

As the demand for sustainable solutions has never been more pressing than now, aluminium can be a critical input with its diverse uses. Aluminium, as opposed to plastic or any other metal or their toxic components, is non-toxic by nature and thus hazardless for users, as well as the environment. The use of aluminium in automobiles, for instance, offers the smallest carbon footprint among competing metals. As the electric vehicle segment and the need for solar photovoltaic increases, there will be a demand for aluminium products offering a sustainable alternative as the metals industry gets a carbon detox.

In meeting decarbonisation goals, the aluminium industry represents as it were an ally metal in climate change. Its use must be pushed.

The writer is Sr. Vice-President – Commercial at Jindal Aluminium Ltd

Published on April 11, 2021

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