With Novelis opening the world’s largest aluminium recycling centre in Nachterstedt, Germany in October 2014 (Anne Kane, Resource, Winter 2015, Page 23), the big question is how to keep it supplied with secondary aluminium.
The new plant is reported to be able to process 400,000 tonnes per annum from 18 different scrap streams and covers over 60,000 square metres of land. The main feed stock is Used Beverage Cans (UBCs). Globally Novelis reports to recycle over 42 billion aluminum UBCs annually.
In the UK, around 8 billion aluminium beverage cans are used each year with around 60% being recycled, which is lower than in may parts of Europe.
So how are the aluminium cans recovered?
1. Private Collections – Charities often arrange for aluminium can collection and then onsale, although this has dropped in recent years;
2. Pre-Sorted Refuse – With some segregation at source, councils collect and then separate materials of which one if the aluminium can;
3. Mixed refuse – This includes feedstock to incinerators with some aluminium being recovered prior and also after incineration;
In all cases, the aluminium can has a real value and as the number of aluminium cans being used increases there is money to be recovered from the waste.
One of the most common automated methods of recovering the aluminium can is using a magnetic separator called an Eddy Current Separator. This actually propels aluminium cans out of the non-metallic waste (plastic, paper, etc) and offers to cleanest and safest separation solution.
Does the new Novelis plant in Germany mean that there has to be more automated recycling using technology like the Eddy Current Separator and, if so, will this significantly increase the recycling rate? It will be interesting to see how this huge new plant is kept fed.