Macro-economy of a circular economy using aluminum

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In the post-Covid era, the importance of industrial growth in harmony with nature has increased. People want to build a more ecologically balanced world, supporting sustainable development.

But reality only opens our eyes. According to the Ellen McArthur Foundation, demand for vital raw materials like plastic, concrete, aluminum and steel will quadruple, resulting in global CO2 emissions of 649 billion tonnes by 2100. But the same report says that emissions from the production process can be reduced by 40% by 2050 if companies adopt a circular economy.

A circular economy would essentially mean moving away from a “take, manufacture and dispose” model which has had its day through a linear economy towards the “7 Rs” of sustainability: rethink, refuse, reduce, reuse, reuse, recycle and Rot (composting of food scraps).

Maximize the use of resources

The impact of a circular economy is based on the general principles of combating waste and pollution, ensuring that products and materials are kept in service while preserving natural systems. It goes beyond recyclability, focusing on maintaining products as a resource at the end of their lifecycle and delivering similar performance to its linear counterpart with minimal ecological and environmental impact.

As our country further cuts emissions, now is the time for India to consider policies and strategies that maximize the use of resources, tackle pollution issues and open up various business opportunities. How better to implement a sustainability plan than to focus on the macroeconomics of a circular economy through a model using the “7 Rs” of sustainability?

The “7 Rs” of sustainability apply to both saving the environment and a litter-free life. As businesses, governments and industries strive to balance the environment and industrial growth, there is a need for a metal that connects these two essential wheels of development.

Aluminum is a metal that offers the advantages of a circular economy to industry. It can be recycled several times without losing its mechanical, physical or chemical properties. According to the World Economic Forum, 75 percent of aluminum ever produced is still in use.

At the same time, according to the latest figures from the IAI (International Aluminum Institute), the sector, including primary, secondary and downstream aluminum producers, contributes around 1.1 Gt CO2e or 2% of global emissions. .

Add to that; aluminum recycling consumes 5% of the electricity needed to produce the same amount of virgin aluminum. Thus, the aluminum used should be an integral part of a plan to achieve green goals and development ambitions for the planet. If it goes through an organized circular economy, it will help reduce CO2 emissions around the world by up to millions of tonnes per year by 2050.

Aluminum’s low energy consumption and low emission levels have helped it transform the world. Downstream aluminum has effectively enabled developments in transport: air, road, rail and sea; packaging of food, drink and pharmaceutical products; construction; electronic; and electricity transmission. This was made possible by the strong and light properties of aluminum, which other metals lack.

This is why aluminum is also called the green metal which makes EV possible.

Compared to other metals, aluminum alloys have a high strength-to-weight ratio, offer superior thermal and electrical conductivity, and resist corrosion. The malleability, elasticity and surface reflectivity of aluminum help to make a wide range of durable and high quality products.

Macro objectives and outcomes

By applying the principles of a circular economy, companies will generate new ideas and explore new ways of working with technology. India can pave the way for innovation through the circular economy in Industry 4.0.

An NITI Aayog report, supporting the need for an aluminum policy, notes that even at low levels of consumption, aluminum has contributed 2 percent of India’s manufacturing GDP. However, it is expected to increase with the growth in consumption, which is essential to reach 25 percent of manufacturing GDP over the next few years.

India’s circular economy development path could create an annual value of 14 lakh crore ($ 218 billion) by 2030 and is expected to reach 40 lakh crore ($ 624 billion) or 30% of current GDP of India by 2050.

Therefore, industry projections indicate that by following a circular economy, high growth markets like India could move directly to a more efficient system and avoid becoming locked into linear models and infrastructure, like this is the case with mature markets.

The author is vice president and general manager of Jindal Aluminum Ltd.

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