Environmental consequences of recycling aluminum old scrap in a global market

Eva Sevigné-Itoiz, Carles M. Gasol, Joan Rieradevall, Xavier Gabarrell

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64 Citations (Scopus)


Nowadays, aluminum scrap is traded globally. This has increased the need to analyze the flows of aluminum scrap, as well as to determine the environmental consequences from aluminum recycling. The objective of this work is to determine the greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions of the old scrap collected and sorted for recycling, considering the market interactions. The study focused on Spain as a representative country for Europe. We integrate material flow analysis (MFA) with consequential life cycle assessment (CLCA) in order to determine the most likely destination for the old scrap and the most likely corresponding process affected. Based on this analysis, it is possible to project some scenarios and to quantify the GHG emissions (generated and avoided) associated with old scrap recycling within a global market. From the MFA results, we projected that the Spanish demand for aluminum products will be met mainly with an increase in primary aluminum imports, and the excess of old scrap not used in Spain will be exported in future years, mainly to Asia. Depending on the scenario and on the marginal source of primary aluminum considered, the GHG emission estimates varied between -18,140 kg of CO2 eq. t-1 and -8427 of CO2 eq. t-1 of old scrap collected. More GHG emissions are avoided with an increase in export flows, but the export of old scrap should be considered as the loss of a key resource, and in the long term, it will also affect the semifinished products industry. Mapping the flows of raw materials and waste, as well as quantifying the GHG impacts derived from recycling, has become an essential prerequisite to consistent development from a linear toward a circular economy (CE). © 2014 Elsevier B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94-103
JournalResources, Conservation and Recycling
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Consequential life cycle assessment (CLCA)
  • Greenhouse gases (GHG)
  • International trade
  • Material flow analysis (MFA)
  • Spain


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