It is important to note that metals are not a renewable resource, which is why they are part of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Recycling one ton of aluminum helps to conserve approximately five tons of bauxite, which is a sedimentary rock of chemical origin and consisting mainly of alumina (Al2O3).
According to the Metal Recycling Factsheet by EuRIC, the primary production of aluminum from bauxite generates 320 million tons of CO₂ emissions annually whereas aluminum recycling only emits 20 million tons of CO₂ emissions, which is equivalent to a reduction of 84%.
With modern technologies the reduction can even reach up to 95% and thus contribute to mitigate climate change and its effects.
Aluminum is a key element for achieving a circular economy and due to its intrinsic characteristics it's becoming a crucial part of some overall objectives, such as the Circular Aluminum Action Plan from the European Union. The plan’s objective is to give a clear outlook to the development of a decarbonized, circular and energy-efficient aluminum value chain in Europe by 2050. By 2030, by unlocking aluminum’s full potential for a circular economy by 2030. Today, recycled aluminum already represents 36 percent of aluminum metal supply in Europe.
Recycled aluminum can be extracted from mixed scrap, for example Zorba. Zorba can be generated from End-of-life vehicles (ELV) which consist of non-ferrous metals, ferrous-metals, plastics, rubber, glass, and other materials. Processors or recyclers sort the incoming materials according to their requirements. The more accurate materials are sorted into clear fractions (e.g. aluminum, copper, etc.), the higher the quality of the recycled materials. As a consequence, higher purity levels achieved through accurate sorting can also open new lines of trading to the recycler, who is increasingly exposed to more stringent regulations set by all the 108 Mexican norms related to the processing, commercialization, extraction and use of aluminum.
According to Data Mexico, in 2020, the main commercial destinations of aluminum waste and scrap generated in Mexico were the United States (US$172M), Brazil (US$58.6M), South Korea (US$30.7M), Saudi Arabia (US$15.7M), and Germany (US$10.3M). The states with the highest international sales of aluminum waste and scrap were Nuevo León (US$158M), Puebla (US$56.6M), Baja California (US$35.6M), Chihuahua (US$35.6M), and Coahuila de Zaragoza (US$12.6M).
Homogenous mono fractions of one metal type bring greater yield and market value. Moreover, these mono fractions are mandatory for high-quality recycling since high quality recyclates can only be produced from the purest material fractions. One way to achieve the required purity levels in mono fractions is the use of sensor-based sorting technologies. These technologies are an integral part of a sorting or recycling plant where they recover recyclable resources out of metal waste streams.