AEA presents the main results of the Environmental Product Declaration, carried out in collaboration with the Polytechnic University of Madrid.
The Spanish Association of Aluminium and Surface Treatments (AEA), which represents more than 600 companies of the sector, has developed the first Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) of the sector. A document that allows to disclose, in a transparent and comparable way, the information of the environmental impact throughout the life cycle of the products and that has shown that, among other things, aluminium is one of the materials with the highest recyclability potential in the world, obtaining a 95% recovery rate of its profiles at the end of its useful life. Moreover, its recycling saves 95% of the energy used in its initial production.
Likewise, among the main conclusions of the WTP, it has been shown that the raw material used to make the aluminium profile already contains 39% recycled aluminium, with a primary aluminium content of 61%.
This metal, which today plays a structural role in many important economic activities (transport, packaging, household goods, electricity transmission, etc.) is thus at the forefront of the development of the Circular Economy. As Jon de Olabarria, Secretary General of the AEA, points out, "the EPD shows that aluminium is a great ally in the new European strategies, which only encourage us to move towards an economic and social system that is efficient in terms of the use of resources. It is a matter of supporting, together, intelligent, sustainable and inclusive growth and looking towards a future in which, at all levels, environmental care plays a crucial role. And aluminium is essential to this goal".
In addition to their recyclability, another of the most important parameters measuring the environmental impact of products is the emission of greenhouse gases, known as carbon footprint, which contributes to global warming. Here, the Environmental Product Declaration of aluminum profiles reveals the following main conclusions:
1kg of anodised aluminium profile is associated with 11.8kg of CO2 from the beginning of the extraction process until the product is ready for delivery; while its recycling means a reduction of 4.0kg of CO2, giving a net value of 7.8Kg of CO2 if the complete life cycle of the profile is taken into account.
1kg of lacquered aluminium profile is associated with 10.3kg of CO2 from the beginning of the extraction process until the product is ready for delivery; while its recycling means a reduction of 3.5kg of CO2, giving a net value of 6.8Kg of CO2 if the complete life cycle of the profile is taken into account.
Taking into account all the aluminium profiles studied in the DAP (anodized, and lacquered with and without thermal break), the values for global warming (CO2) range between 10.3 and 11.8 kg of CO2 per kg of profile. And the recycling of the profiles means an exemption between 3.0 and 4.0 kg of CO2 per kg of profile.
Non-renewable Primary Energy
The non-renewable primary energy used in the manufacture of aluminium profiles is another indicator of the impact they generate. Thus, the WTP shows that:
For each kg of anodized aluminium profile, 420 MJ of primary energy are needed, while recycling reduces it by 49 MJ, giving a net value of 391 MJ if the complete life cycle of the profile is taken into account. For each kg of lacquered aluminium profile, 345 MJ of primary energy are needed, while recycling reduces the primary energy consumption by 43 MJ, giving a net value of 299 MJ if the complete life cycle of the profile is taken into account.
As with the previous rate, taking into account all the aluminium profiles included in the WTP, the primary energy is 420 MJ and 324 MJ per kg of profile. The recycling of the profiles implies an energy saving between 49 and 38 MJ.
In all cases, the aluminium billet production stage is the one that makes the greatest contribution to the impacts, followed by the extrusion stage and the painting/anodizing operations of the profiles.
Benefits of EPD in relation to the construction sector Obtaining an Environmental Product Declaration is an important innovation and brings numerous advantages to the construction sector:
- Products with EPD help the building projects in which they are prescribed to obtain extra points in environmental certifications such as LEED, BREEAM, GREEN, etc. - It allows to reliably demonstrate the recycled content at the beginning of the life cycle and the recycling rate at the end of the life cycle, thus showing the product's contribution to the circular economy. - It puts products on the starting line for future more restrictive legislative and regulatory scenarios. - It facilitates the demonstration that the product contributes to the basic requirements 3 (hygiene, health and environment) and 7 (sustainable use of natural resources) of the EU Construction Products Regulation 305/2011. - The information provided in an EPD is based on Life Cycle Assessment which enables process improvement whose results can, in turn, be communicated through the EPD itself. This LCA is also compatible with that used in other environmental footprints (product environmental footprint, PEF) or carbon footprint. - As they are subject to verification by an independent third party, they provide quantified and robust information, obtained in a standardised way.
A landmark declaration for the sector
The WTP has been promoted by the AEA and has had the collaboration of the companies in the sector that have provided all the inventory data. The life cycle analysis on which the published results are based was conducted by the specialist Diego Ruiz, a member of IDNOVAM, a spin-off of the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM). The EPD is a milestone for the sector which, for the first time, has a harmonized document of great importance that offers corroborated and complete data on the environmental impact of extruded aluminium profiles throughout their entire life cycle.
As Olabarria adds "the objective with the EPD is to provide summarized and useful information on the main aspects of the potential environmental impact of aluminum profiles, such as energy use, global warming and acidification. The birth, for the first time in Spain, of this text is really important because it will allow the different agents and companies, from architects to end users and consumer companies, to make informed decisions about the use of the metal".
Likewise, the Secretary General of the Association concludes, "the objective results of the Declaration place aluminium at the forefront of the Circular Economy, making it clear how much this material contributes to society and the potential it has in terms of efficiency, energy savings and sustainability. We must not lose sight of the fact that the achievement of demanding environmental certifications, such as BREAM, LEED and GREEN, are already the present - and will continue to be the future - in the architecture and construction sector; certifications that the use of aluminium in buildings helps to achieve".
Aluminum, among other characteristics, has different properties that make it one of the most efficient materials for the architectural sector. Among them, its lightness, strength, durability, malleability and resistance to corrosion.
The EPD has been carried out in accordance with the UNE-EN 15804 standard for construction products and services and verified by an independent third party. The document demonstrates, through rigorous and verified information, the environmental performance of aluminium profiles, so that these can be accredited for the purpose of obtaining environmental certifications for buildings. DAP has been registered with Environdec's EPD System® and Global EPD, a system managed by AENOR.
The conclusions of the study cover extruded aluminium profiles, anodized or lacquered, including thermal bridge break (RPT). It includes the manufacturing stage of aluminium profiles (production of raw materials, transport to the plant and manufacturing of the profiles) up to their end of life. It also provides information on the environmental benefits and burdens derived from the recycling of aluminium at the end of its useful life and its use in a second product system (module D).
The WTP has been carried out with information from a large number of profile manufacturing, surface treatment and raw material supplier companies, members of the AEA, representing 74% of the total extrusion production capacity within the Association and 62% of that in Spain, which means more than 280,000 tonnes of extruded aluminium per year. All this primary information is based on production data of aluminium profiles manufactured in 2017.