Greenwashing: Is this a Potential Credibility Issue for Aluminium?

“A producer promoting recycled content above 90 per cent is 'greenwashing' its metal”, according to Hydro's Roland Scharf-Bergmann who issued a warning in a speech at the Metal Bulletin conference in Istanbul.

In recent years, attention to global warming has led consumers and policymakers to demand more information about recyclability measurements in products made from aluminium.

“Today, two indicators are typically used in the industry – ‘recycled content’ and ‘end of life recycling rate’”, said Roland Scharf-Bergmann, Head of Recycling at Hydro, the parent company of the Technal and Wicona façade system brands.

Recycled Content – Is this Inappropriate for Aluminium?

Hydro is warning that the incorrect use of terms may lead to the ‘greenwashing’ of aluminium – that is, overstating the environmental benefits – with the potential of undermining the credibility of the aluminium industry.

Recycled content looks at how much recycled material is used in the production of a new product. The ‘end of life’ recycling rate (also known as the EoL rate) compares the actual amount of metal obtained from recycling with the amount of metal theoretically available at the end of the life of a product. For example, the end of life recycling rate of aluminium in buildings in Europe is 96 per cent.

Hydro to Promote End of Life Recycling

Hydro has taken the decision to actively promote the end of life recycling rate as the appropriate measure for aluminium recycling. This view is supported by the International Aluminium Institute and several other aluminium producers and recyclers. But a number of industry players are still promoting a high level of recycled content when marketing their products.

More Primary Metal is Necessary

Globally, estimates show that in 2010, 10.6m metric tons of aluminium were collected and recycled after use. In the same year, global primary production exceeded 41m metric tons.

“Since the demand for aluminium is growing each year and because aluminium products on average have a long life expectancy, there is a need to introduce more primary aluminium metal into the loop. That means that despite efficient collection and recycling of aluminium products at the end of their life, the average recycled content in metal supply will not reach 40 per cent before 2050”, says Scharf-Bergmann.

“A producer marketing high average recycled content of above 90 per cent in their products is actually greenwashing. The only way they can attain such a high average recycled content is by counting process scrap in their calculations”, he says.

“In order to reach a level playing field, Hydro is striving for an aligned definition and calculation method for recycled content that is visible to all stakeholders involved. However, our clear ambition is to continue to promote end of life recycling.”

Roland Scharf-Bergmann

recycling aluminium

recycling aluminium