Industry forecasts point toward 75 percent growth in aluminium recycling in the next decade. Roland Scharf-Bergmann, head of Hydro's Recycling unit, attributes the growth to a change in mindset and perceptions in our society.
Hydro announced in September that it will step up its activities in aluminium recycling. The company aims to be the European leader in recycling, in line with its position as the leading supplier of casthouse and semi-fabricated aluminium products.
Strong growth in recycling
Hydro's Roland Scharf-Bergmann is chairperson of the Global Aluminium Recycling Committee in the International Aluminium Institute (IAI), the global arm of the aluminium industry.
On Wednesday, he made a keynote speech at the Metal Bulletin Recycled Aluminium conference in Krakow, Poland, to present his view of changes and challenges for the recycling industry in the past, present and future.
The recycling industry has seen recycled aluminium volumes rise significantly from 13.7 million tonnes in 2003 to 19.4 million tonnes in 2009, representing an increase of 42 percent, compared to a 28 percent increase in primary production.
This is supported by strong growth of recovered scrap from end-of-life products of closed to 50 percent during the same period.
Most recent forecasts from IAI's Global Aluminium Recycling Committee show growth in recovered scrap from 2010 at approximately 9.5 millon tonnes to almost 17 million tonnes in 2020, following the life-cycle analysis of the various product groups and taking into account projected collection and recycling rates.
Change in perception
"This development is not just driven by market dynamics, but by a change in mindset and perception in our society," Scharf-Bergmann stated at the Krakow conference.
"When I joined the industry more than 12 years ago, there was still the perception of recycling being a dirty business in many aspects," he added.
He reported about a changed perception driven by environmental aspects and the need to save energy. Today reports and statistics are issued not only on scrap collection and recycling rates and production volumes, but also "avoided emissions" of CO2 by recycled post-consumed scrap.
This is driven by the fact that recycling of aluminium consumes only 5 percent of the energy consumed by primary production.
Strategic raw material
"Scrap has become a strategic raw material in regions like Europe, but also across the globe. We know that China views scrap as strategic, so we can expect China to grow their investment in recycling as well as scrap imports significantly," Scharf-Bergmann said.
Global scrap flows are expected to grow from 4 million tonnes in 2008 to more than 10 million tonnes in 2020, the majority ending up in China and the rest of Asia.
"Hydro's role in the future will be to take our share of the market as a leading integrated producer over the whole value chain. Our position in the market, combined with commercial and technological competence, will provide us with growth opportunities in recycling to help us improving our carbon footprint," Scharf-Bergmann said.
He also pointed to Hydro's plans to build a recycling plant in Karmøy, Norway, as well as the development of a scrap portal, a web-based scrap procurement and trading platform that will be unique in the market, as is the company's customer portal.
"Hydro is on the right track, for sure. Our ambition is an annual recycling of up to one million tonnes of aluminium in 2020," he said, adding:
"With the planned acquisition in Brazil of bauxite mining and refining activities as well as aluminium production, the ramp-up of the part-owned Qatalum aluminium plant in Qatar, and with our strong positions in the Extruded Products and Rolled Products business areas, Hydro is set to deliver strong results that will add to today's financial robustness."