The North American aluminum industry, through the work of the Aluminum Association, was an early pioneer in developing comprehensive, peer-reviewed research on the environmental impact of material production and use. The aluminum industry supports the life cycle assessment approach to research which tracks the impact of a product in all stages of its life -- from raw material extraction, to production and use, to disposal or recycling.
Following are several key studies on the aluminum industry’s environmental impact:
Life Cycle Assessment of North American Aluminum Cans (May 2021)
This LCA tracks aluminum cans manufactured in North America and quantifies all material, energy use and potential environmental impacts over the life cycle of 1,000 cans from raw material acquisition through recycling and/or disposal.
LCA Report: EDAG Silverado Body Lightweighting (August 2018)
This report examines cradle-to-grave environmental footprint reductions of an advanced aluminum pickup truck body design in comparison with a baseline design using high-strength steel (HSS) and advanced high-strength steel (AHSS).
Analysis of the Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emission Implications of Distributing and Refrigerating Beverages (2016)
A 2016 study completed by ICF International finds that the combined greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the transportation and refrigeration of beverages in aluminum cans are lower than those associated with that of beverages in glass or plastic bottles under the same conditions.
Automotive Aluminum Recycling at End of Life | A Grave-to-Gate Analysis (2016)
A 2016 report from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Center for Resource Recovery and Recycling supports earlier studies, including those conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, in confirming the high recycling rate (91%) of automotive aluminum.
Aluminum Beverage Can Life Cycle Assessment Report (2014 & 2010)
In 2010, the Aluminum Association released a peer-reviewed, cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment report examining the environmental impact of aluminum can production in the United States and Canada. The report was updated in 2014 using new data which showed an addititional 20 percent reduction in carbon footprint and 70 percent recycled content of the average can -- far exceeding alternative beverage containers.
Semi-Fabricated Aluminum Products LCA (2013)
This peer-reviewed life-cycle assessment (LCA) study shows a major decline in energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions for primary aluminum production in the U.S. and Canada.
Aluminum: The Element of Sustainability (2011)
This report takes a holistic look at the industry’s environmental footprint, from production to product use and recycling.
Aluminum Transportation Group Reports
The Aluminum Association’s Aluminum Transportation Group (ATG) supports research in a number of areas highlighting the environmental benefits of substituting aluminum for other materials in the automotive sector.