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There is Potential for Sustainable Realisation within the European Aluminium Manufacturing Sector
Aluminium production is increasing with the rising demand of aluminium; particularly in the European market. However, with the growing production in the aluminium manufacturing industry, there has been a rise in the negative impacts that result from the production of aluminium. With that, sustainability of aluminium has become a growing concern.
Therefore, the aim of this study is to critically analyse and evaluate aluminium production, sustainability, its negative impacts on the environment and steps are taken to modify the aluminium production process. The study aims to use secondary qualitative research design which would ensure data collection of European aluminium manufacturing industry.
The results indicate that there has been a rise in the demand of aluminium and its sustainability is essential. There have been detrimental impacts of aluminium products for years; however, the gap is being filled as the European market has started using modified technology and mechanisms to produce aluminium. However, it is recommended that further strategic frameworks are required to cater to sustainability initiatives of aluminium production socially and economically.
CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION
Background of the Study
The world is experiencing rapid change. Declining resources, rising world population and changing climate are seriously reshaping the place we live and the way we live in such areas. The extent of damage that is done to the present environmental condition is very much noticeable. There are reasons to believe that the current rate at which the available resources are being depleted is not sustainable (Fearnside, 2016).
The situation has left the world with four main environmental concerns: depletion of fossil fuel, water quantity and quality, change of climate that result from the usage of fossil fuel, and growth of population that exceeds the capacity of the earth to hold. Inclusive Wealth Index (IWI), an index that view further than the traditional index for nation’s development like GDP, shows that despite the great growth in countries in Europe, in as far as the GDP is concerned, most of the countries in this region have significantly depleted their known natural resources.
The sharp reduction in the number of natural resources has caused great concerns in trying to maintain long term stability for the countries found in Europe (Fearnside, 2016). One of the important challenges which require great interest is air pollution and climate change. One of the key sectors responsible for air pollution is the aluminium industry.
Statistics have shown that the aluminium industry is the largest of the non-ferrous metal industries in Europe. In the year 2012, there were more than 30 primary and secondary aluminium generation plants within European Economic Area (EEA): Arconic, Alcoa, Novelis, Aludium, Hydro, Elval and Alunorf among others. Recycling of aluminium is done by more than 100 industries in Europe.
Aluminium is usually produced by two different processes: primary aluminium and secondary aluminium. In primary aluminium, the main raw material is bauxite ore which undergoes a process and gets converted into alumina. It is the alumina which is then converted into aluminium metal through the process of electrolysis. The secondary aluminium industry only recycles old scraps which are recovered from different products’ end-use.
Experts argue that the aluminium production industry is one of the greatest contributors to environmental pollution in Europe (Niero, et al, 2016). Hence, therefore, it is quite interesting to understand the exact measures that are taken by the European Commission regarding regulating the environment to help curb pollution inflicted by the aluminium industry.
The idea has always been to understand different methodologies needed for quantification and monitoring of the known emissions, the most reliable technology and conforming emission limit values of various pollutants as prescribed in multiple regulations (Niero et al, 2016). The main idea here has always been to make the industry more sustainable for the future generation.
To gain more understanding of how sustainable the aluminium industry is, the researcher has picked on the aluminium industry in Europe. The approach used while studying a case of the aluminium industry is to understand how sustainable the whole sector in Europe is, by evaluating some of the main pollutants that are emitted from the industry and the programs put in place to limit such pollutions.
The aluminium industry has been under pressure to ameliorate their general resource efficiency and minimise emissions. In replication to that, aluminium engenderers have endeavoured to categorically examine their emissions and consumption of energy throughout their life cycle.
Studies have shown that aluminium production presents one of the greatest energy consumptions and has the possibility of global warming (Haas, et al., 2015). This is attributed to the vast quantities of energy consumed. The main sources of energy to produce aluminium in the year 2015 were coal at 53%, hydropower at 37%, and lastly natural gas at 7% (Niero, et al, 2016).
The energy consumption during the smelting process, is the most intensive of the whole life cycle, has greatly ameliorated within the last few decades, through an advanced cell design as well as process control which has given scope to a higher cell current as well as smaller cathode-anode distance.
Looking into the future, increasing pressure for the supplying regions to move towards greater sustainability, there are several areas within the stages of production process of aluminium, from bauxite mining to the actual casting, that give enough room for improvement for minimising aspects of environmental impacts (Niero, et al., 2016).
Changing the sources of energy for generation of electricity and moving away from coal could help reduce the energy required by more than 25%, and a realisation of the same reduction in the overall gross energy requirements, associated to the increased electricity generation efficiency by the hydropower and natural gas and the minimised consumption of the primary energy (Zhang et al., 2016).
Additionally, the European aluminium industry is working to replace all the carbon anodes utilised and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. Furthermore, wetted anodes currently allow for a reduced cathode-anode distance and hence decreased total energy requirements.
Results generated by Haas, Krausmann, Wiedenhofer & Heinz (2015) outlines that efforts made to minimise emissions of greenhouse gases as well as consumption of energy in aluminium production need to focus on the extraction stage of aluminium of the life cycle and hence, this can lead into a major reduction. This seems to hold very true for the case of aluminium whose extraction and refining consume 85% of the required energy while mining and mineral processing only absorb 15% (Niero, et al., 2016).
A multiregional model that mirrors likely trends within the global aluminium industry up to 2030 following the expected development in GDP has reported a rapid increase in aluminium output that is accompanied by a threefold increase in the total emissions (Zhang, et al., 2016).
Change in climate as well as increasing cost for generation of energy in addition to a stricter regulation on the emissions the environment remains to be a great challenge for the European community to meet. The European aluminium industry strongly believes that its products serve as part of the solution in ensuring environmental sustainability instead of contributing to the problem (Hirsch, 2014).
Even with such arguments, scientific reports have still shown that aluminium smelting is a production process which is very energy-intensive, requiring, in Europe alone, a total of 157 thousand kilowatt-hours of electricity for the generation of a single tonne of aluminium. Close to 60% of all the aluminium that is produced in Europe depends on electricity from coal-fired power plants or gas industries (Alcoa.com., 2019).
Aluminium production in some parts of Europe, for instance, in Iceland did makeup to 800,000 tonnes of primary aluminium, which equates to circa 2% of the worldwide market. In relation to this, the importance of Iceland in the European aluminium generation is major because of its higher share of renewable energy that is applied in generating electricity in the country (Liu & Müller, 2012).
With 70% from the existing hydropower and 30% geothermal power, the aluminium industry did use close to 70% of the total amount of electricity that was generated in the country in the year 2015. Based on such results, it is reasonable to expect that the production of aluminium in Europe can be less unfavourable in meeting environmental sustainability.
This seem to hold true, more also in relation to the global warming possibility, when compared to some other regions which have a lower share of renewable energy within their energy mix (GmbH, 2019). Scholars argue, however, that some other additional environmental impact can as well arise, more also those which impact the local environment and are associated with the use of the land, resource depletion and biodiversity.
The main objective of this study is:
To critically analyse the extent of sustainability within the European Aluminium Industry
To investigate measures that aluminium producing companies are taking to prevent aspects of pollution, greenhouse gas emission and other matters with the aim of realising economic, social and environmental sustainability.
To critically analyse the range of sustainable information across the European aluminium sector.
To examine value chain in sustainable realisation within the European aluminium manufacturing sector
To examine recyclability in sustainable realisation within the European aluminium manufacturing sector
To determine environmental impacts on sustainable realisation within the European aluminium manufacturing sector
This thesis comprises of five main chapters. Chapter one has provided the introduction to the subject of study by means of a brief presentation into the background of the problem, problem statement and research objectives. The aims are supported by objectives which are to:
Analyse current economic, environmental and technical roles within the aluminium sector;
Investigate educational and sustainable strategies sectionally;
Gather relevant data and perspectives from stakeholders;
Analyse information gleaned from data gathered and identify the challenges.
Derive conclusions for recommending the improvement of current practices.
Chapter 2 (literature review) involves examinations of many works of literature from various research done on some disciplines including, aluminium production, sustainability and Sustainability within the European Aluminium Industry.
Chapter 3 (methodology) legitimises the ideal models utilised in the examination and methodologies for the investigation and frameworks the sort of strategies that are utilised in testing the hypothesis. It clarifies the subtleties of the information accumulation together with the information preparing systems and the strategies of examination that are created.
The study chose a secondary qualitative paradigm approach, since qualitative approaches assist by narrating and describing the general experience of the studied material before making any form of final remarks (Robert 2014).
Chapter 4 (Results and Discussion) gives subtleties of information investigation from optional subjective data gathered from various researchers and company websites.
Chapter 5 (Conclusion and Recommendations) displays an exchange of the discoveries and the ramifications of the acquired outcomes. Study suggestions are separated into two perspectives for this situation: the suggestion for the scholarly hypothesis and the suggestion for practical application. Furthermore, it gives a dialogue of the constraints of the examination and gives proposals for impending supplementary research.
CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW
The European Aluminium Organisation and its Role
The European aluminium sector contributes mainly to the economy of the member states and has opened opportunities in the extended global market. The European Aluminium Organisation was established in Brussels in 1981, where it has served as the voice centre for issues concerning aluminium within Europe (European Aluminium, n.d.). The significant roles of the organisation are to engage actively with the stakeholders to ensure that the industry expands in terms of customer base, quality properties and sustaining Europe’s economy; in particular, during economic hardship.
Akadiri et al. (2012) argue that sustainability in the aluminium sector can promote the economy through promoting the environmental and technical industry, scientific research, education, various public affairs and the communication sector; all of which have been fundamental factors that became the basis for economic decisions (Hanes and Nicholson, 2017).
The Economic Roles
European Aluminium (2018) argues that the European aluminium industry recorded a 2% increase in the extrusion market in 2018. The total market consumption for aluminium in this period was 3.2 million tonnes. Also, it is estimated that the flat-rolled aluminium products recorded a growth of 3% amounting to 5.3 million tonnes.
European Aluminium (2018) also suggests that such growth is attributed to the increase in demand for rolled products within and outside of Europe. Despite the growth potential for aluminium products, there have been several setbacks that are hindering the growth. Surges in demand led to an increase in importation for aluminium products from other countries; with China taking the lion’s share and the extrusion market recording positive growth, there has been a decline in the number of primary products produced in Europe (European Aluminium, 2018).
This demonstrates that the reason behind the decrease in the U.S. growth is due to sanctioned importing products from Russia; hence, significant producers of aluminium companies such as Rusal reduced their activities due to absence of the market. The Rusal company serves as the primary supplier of aluminium products in Europe; in 2017 Rusal supplied 20% equating to 3.7 million metric tonnes of primary aluminium metal used in Europe and provided over 46% of the aluminium based raw material for processing in Europe equating to 7.75 million metric tonnes (Ernesto et al., 2018; Tabereaux, 2018; World Aluminium, 2019).
Figure 1. Global Primary Aluminium Production 2017. Data extracted from Aluminium org (2017).
Economically, the aluminium industry offers employment opportunities to the entire European population, as well as making the economic block competitive to the global market by offering quality brand and products. The aluminium sector also attracts investors to open industries in Europe; thus, diversifying the use of aluminium and promoting innovation.
Calel and Dechezlepretre (2016) claim that in order to ensure sustainability in the aluminium sector, there is a need to secure the functionality of the metal sector including raw material supply, production, and recycling. The benefits of establishing a functioning value chain is it attracts investors, boosts innovation and product diversification. Also, it ensures a continued production, maintaining a stable market price of aluminium products across Europe (Vives, 2016).
The Environmental and Technical Roles of Aluminium in Europe
In order to maintain a clean environment, it is crucial to reduce the impacts of greenhouse gases produced during mining, processing, or recycling of aluminium products (Calel and Dechezlepretre, 2016). In Europe, a policy known as the Emission Trading System (ETS) was established to advocate for the reduction of carbon emission, using effective projects to introduce efficient methods of production and enhance the technical know-how of stakeholders to produce aluminium products.
Calel and Dechezlepretre (2016) argue that in order to ensure the reduction of carbon emissions, companies should focus on adopting electro-intensive processing units. In this regard, companies that use electricity in production reduce carbon emissions significantly, as aluminium is known for being energy efficient (Zink, Geyer and Startz, 2018).
Markussen and Svendsen (2005) argue that the EU faces a significant challenge, particularly in the production of clean energy for use by their intensive industries. The increased demand for manufactured goods in the EU market and the extended global market. Therefore, there is a demand for aluminium to produce more products; and therefore, more energy will be required for processing. As such, the focus on clean energy arises, so does the spotlight highlight the increased use of dirty energy in industries, which exacerbates environmental pollution, mainly due to CO2 emissions (Beck, 2016).
Markussen and Svendsen (2005) propose that there is a need for the European Union (EU) to develop strategies to sustain market demands and a clean environment. Markussen and Svendsen (2005) argue that in the past, the EU has managed to regulate the new market by using tax regulations but failed to be effective in addressing problems emanating from environmental pollution. Law is written in the tradable Greenhouse Gas permit (GHG) is aimed at regulating CO2 emission. For example, the United States tradable permit works effectively in regulating industries from producing SO2 emissions (Markussen and Svendsen, 2005).
For the EU to achieve sustainable environmental conditions, it has to work on reducing GHG emission to an allowed limit of eight percent as per the Kyoto agreement. All EU member states must agree on implementing the directive that establishes ways to regulate greenhouse gases emission, thus allowing permission to trade in the EU (Markussen and Svendsen, 2005).
The importance of using the GHG trading framework in the EU is to enable a lobbying mechanism so that measures can be identified between the Green papers, the final directive and after lobbying. In order to protect the environment, it is essential to form commissions that will undertake the opinions of the stakeholders before passing regulations (Jung and Mishra, 2018) In the EU, the significant stakeholders or participants who pollute the environment, or the largest CO2 emitters include the heat and electricity sector, chemical industries, iron and steel, cement sectors and the aluminium sector (Markussen and Svendsen, 2005).
The EU applies the four rules to achieve a reduction of CO2 emissions. Since 2005 companies are required to reduce CO2 emission to remain within the confines set by the community of the area. The primary greenhouse gases emitters are those industries that use more than 20MW electricity. For example, the cement, iron, refineries, and coke ovens may be regulated as they produce about half of the total emissions. However, CO2 emission is not as high as for the aluminium and chemical sectors compared to the previous sectors (Hanes and Nicholson, 2017).
The second rule relates to regulation through allocating licenses to organisations that have adhered to requirements of the state and the European Union. Markussen and Svendsen (2005) argue that established companies have adequate measures to ensure that the level of CO2 emission remains within manageable limits.
Millar and Russell (2011) claim that many entrants and small companies have inadequate processing systems, thus leading to increased pollution. Therefore, it is recommended that all established industries should be responsible for issuing a license after analysing and determining that a stakeholder or producer adheres to and uses appropriate techniques to reduce pollution levels.
The third rule focuses on using a mix with other instruments or sectors (Markussen and Svendsen, 2005). They suggest that rules set to reduce emission by imposing additional tax fines are also deemed as an inadequate and domestic strategy. Thus, it is crucial to amalgamate these strategies with a more effective policy, such as the support for the use of renewable energy as an alternative source of energy. Another approach emphasises the need for compliance. In this case, polluters who violate the compliance requirements are to be subjected to more substantial penalties (Gautam, Pandey and Agrawal, 2018).
Markussen and Svendsen (2005) concluded their study by stating that the European Aluminium Association (EAA) and the Eurometaux are the key representatives of the European aluminium sector. Since the aluminium sector contributes less to the generation of greenhouse gases, it is not essential to subject the absolute policies set in 2005.
Instead, the industry should be permitted to take part in the market to reduce the impacts of internal and external competitions (Thompson and Berben, 2015). Concerning the allocation policy, there must be use of negotiation for licenses for aluminium to continue with production after installing critical components that reduce pollution. Relating to the issue of taxes and penalties, Markussen and Svendsen (2005) believe that increased taxes do not satisfactorily offer a solution to pollution, therefore, the need for setting standard rules on compliance applies equally for all stakeholders.
Aluminium production processes require a lot of energy consumption as a result of which it is deemed responsible for approximately 1% of GHG emission globally (Gao et al., 2009). More than 50% of such emissions are a result of aluminium which is imported or exported internationally which can be classified as commodities resulting in 28% of the overall emissions or final products resulting in 24% of the emissions (McMillan and Keoleian, 2009).
The cost of aluminium production fluctuates across nations which results in the varying intensity of carbon emission; ranging from approximately 1tCO2/ t considering recyclate to 3tCO2/ t for companies utilising technologically advanced mechanisms to smelt aluminium; such as, hydro-power electrical machines (Liu and Müller, 2012).
For those nations who are still using conventional methods to smelt aluminium may end up at 20tCO2/t for using coal-generated electricity. Europe is situated in the EU ETS region, emissions of carbon generating from the consumption of aluminium in European countries might demonstrate an increase by 2020, regardless of the positive impacts, EU ETs has (Feng, Zou and Wei, 2011).
Aluminium in its basic form is extracted from aluminium oxide that is acquired from bauxite. The process of producing aluminium relies on the electrolytic procedure which is an energy-consuming method at a temperature of around 960°C, in which high electric current is required for the production of aluminium (Gilbert and Viau, 1997).
Moreover, aluminium which is secondary acquires 5% less energy than the basic aluminium; however, it still accounts for 33% of the world supply and may escalate to 40% with passing years (Zhang, Kamavarum and Reddy, 2003). The manufacturing Industries of aluminium in many regions of Europe still heavily rely on conventional methods of production which result in high energy consumption.
In addition to the process of electrolysis requiring high energy, it also results in emissions of greenhouses gases which has a detrimental impact on the environment (Wang, Leung, and Leung, 2012).
In order to refrain from negative impacts of high energy intensity of aluminium production, many companies are trying to leave behind the traditional methods of production (Marinho and Mourão, 2018). In other words, instead of using technological method called Søderberg in their plants, they are moving toward Prebake technology which is believed to cut energy consumption by 15%. As of now, the plant is in the pilot phase; however, it is expected to be developed on with years (Senanu et al., 2019).
Aluminium production in the manufacturing industries results in the production of numerous toxic compound. Heavy metals are disposed of in clean water because of which the pH levels fall and the water becomes acidic. A study was conducted on Imo River, Jaja Creeks, Utaewa River and Essene to assess the impact of pollutants generated from aluminium production on drinking water that found the pH level of water fell below 7 due to acidification resulting from heavy metals and toxic compounds (Oyo-Ita et al., 2016).
This toxic water is deemed dangerous for sea life, usage of water for irrigation purposes and drinking. As a result, the abundance of diversification in seawater life may decrease resulting whilst endangering various species (Huglen and Kvande, 2016).
At times, aluminium is obtained from hydrolysis which involves aluminium to react with water. During the process, concentration of acidic compounds increases in water. High concentration makes the water poisonous. A low intake of aluminium present in water is digestible by humans or any other species (Brinzea et al., 2017).
However, large uptakes may have fatal impacts on human life or aquatic animals. A Norwegian study demonstrated that excessive accumulation of aluminium in water results in failure of osmoregulation in animals that breathe using gills (Rosseland, Eldhuset and Staurnes, 1990).
However, with the expansion of technology and increasing demand for aluminium, aluminium production and recycling procedures are modified such that the environmental impacts are lowered. Aluminium markets are ready to compromise on profitability to lower detrimental effects on the environment (Najiha, Rahman and Kadirgama, 2016).
A Belgian case study shows that industries are ready to face environmental challenges by compromising on profitability and revenue whilst making the process environmentally friendly (Soo et al., 2019).
Roles of Operator Involvement in Pollution Reduction
Various industries have used palliative approaches to mitigate different types of pollution. For example, many organisations employ environmental equipment and install end-of-pipe control systems to regulate pollution and train employees on environmental protection strategies.
Boiral et al. (2015) argue that these techniques are inadequate to provide significant change in order to mitigate pollution from its sources; therefore, greater emphasis must be placed on educating stakeholders concerning processes that lead to increased pollution and the work habits that promote the creation of pollutant wastes. This initiative encourages facilities to focus on establishing measures and procedures to regulate the formation of pollutants from the point of the source during daily activity (Wong and Lavoie, 2019).
In this regard, daily activities will require using several approaches to reduce the production of pollutants and decrease their impacts. Initially, whilst in the processing stage, firms may wish to train employees on the importance of continuous dilution of generated waste products which has been proven successful to attenuate environmental effects (Boiral et al., 2015).
Tietenberg and Lewis (2016) confirm that many industries have been using ineffective measures to substitute for contaminant systems and cite examples of enterprises using very long chimneys with the expectations that by the time pollutants get dispersed to the environment, they will have been diluted.
Tietenberg and Lewis (2016) advise creating elongated vents without dilution treatment leads to chronic disease infection and pollution dispersed across the borders resulting in national disputes. As a result, EU has been at the forefront of fighting against environmental pollution by industries.
Harrison and Von Scheele (2009) and Tietenberg and Lewis (2016) argue that pollution can be regulated through implementing strict regulations, responding to the social pressures and embracing green technology to curb pollution. Tietenberg and Lewis (2016) further advocate the use of new technology to modify old companies to reduce the emission of pollutant gases into the environment and proposes that the design must incorporate in the form of a proper system to mitigate effects of pollution. In addition, they cite the use of anti-pollution equipment, and advise newly established companies in Europe to incorporate them (Palazzo and Geyer, 2019).
The first strategy to reduce pollution relates to the use of preventative measures and seek to find alternative methods to reduce pollution at a manageable cost (Harrison and Von Scheele, 2009). For example, a preventative measure may comprise of techniques such as recycling, recovery, and reducing contaminant from the source point.
Boiral et al. (2015) argue that prevention involves redesigning technical equipment and processes, and advocate for the use of less polluting materials to mitigate pollution. They recommend that their strategies for reducing pollution include analysing the link between pollution, prevention and operational management procedures.
The second strategy involves the use of well-crafted environmental management systems integrated into all departments to work on a common goal (Harrison and Von Scheele, 2009). For example, management systems require managers and employees to set goals, follow a given plan, conduct adequate training, and be able to write down environmental procedures to achieve behavioural change within the organisation (Paillé and Boiral, 2012).
The essence of the study is to emphasise on the fact that to sustain aluminium sectors in the EU region, employees also need to get involved. Alt et al. (2015) revealed that involving employees is critical in enhancing organisational culture because employees dedicate their commitment to achieving the goals and values of an organisation.
The Future of the Aluminium Sector in Europe
The EU market has diverse uses of the aluminium produced within and outside of Europe. Focusing on the usage of aluminium, the European Aluminium Association (2011) released a report indicating that aluminium utilisation in a car and the transport-related application consumes the most significant percentage at 36% followed by the building industries that consumes 26% of aluminium produced.
Other sectors such as engineering and packaging of products consume 14% and 17% respectively. The remaining 7% of aluminium caters for additional small scale uses. According to the European Aluminium Association (2011), the consumption trend of the aluminium in Europe is dominated by importation at 46% of primary material followed by recycling which produces 33%, and primary production of aluminium by Net-Imports is 21%. The dominance of the aluminium is related to increase smelting activities that are the result of decreased energy prices outside the boundaries of the EU (Zare et al., 2016).
The European Aluminium Association (2011) suggests that the value chain of aluminium in the EU is faced by challenges such as close interlinks that affect production and the loss of primary aluminium knowledge and the skills to use in production which lead to poor designs, limited innovation; impacting the entire supply chain. Also, the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME’s) lack the know-how to recycle aluminium materials and innovation to make alloys with desirable shapes and size.
As a result, the SME fails to manufacture even the essential goods; which results in the market importing finished products and raw materials. The European Aluminium Association (2011) claims that for the EU market to have a sustainable aluminium sector, it is crucial to reviving the existing areas, such as supporting the SME with adequate training and skills to manufacture primary products.
The association recommends that industries should focus on utilising the available or the primary aluminium in Europe to reduce importation. It further advocates sustaining aluminium because it is crucial to recycle aluminium; particularly from the transport sector, such as old cars at the end of life (Schoedel, 2016).
The aluminium industrial sector has faced numerous transitions globally in the previous decade. All divisions and subdivisions of the value chain of aluminium manufacturing are ruled by the European market since its rise as a strong producer by a wider margin than many other nations (Cao, Wang, Shi and Yin, 2015).
There has been an exceptional rise in the output as a result of substantial investments in the Greenfield for widespread smelting volumes as well as the advancement of bauxite coal mines, aluminium processing plants, coal-fired refineries and manufacturing factories. As a result, the prices of Aluminium have declined. London Metal Exchange (LME) has demonstrated persistent fall of prices from 2011 to 2015 (Fontanini and Picchi, 2004).
In numerous nations across the world, the fall in price corresponds with an eventual decline the profits and revenue generated by organisations that produce aluminium. In Europe, this has resulted in certain companies of the European Union to shut their smelters. On the other hand, energy resources that have lower costs have made certain European companies resilient (Hirsch, 2014).
In addition, financial and non-financial support has been provided for aluminium smelting and production in order to support companies. For instance, the governmental authorities in Norway offered around 180 million US dollars for years for aluminium production company called Norsk Hydro in support for research and development for its Karmøy plant (Hatayama et al., 2009).
Evidence has demonstrated that trade regulations have been aligned with governmental support to ensure discipline. Various trade barriers have been forced has a part of strategic frameworks of countries for the promotion of industrial downstream whilst making products low-priced domestically.
For instance, heightened tariffs on import of aluminium semis and products, governmental authorities of Russia have pursued support for value chain being domestically processed down. As a result, sustenance of the government has now expanded on wider economic drifts for aluminium production (Markussen, and Svendsen, 2005).
Contribution of Aluminium in Reducing the Impacts on Environmental Pollution
According to the study by the European Aluminium Association (2011), the transport sector contributes to 25% of the emissions of greenhouse gases. The high emission is attributed to heavy materials used to make vehicle and other transport machinery. As such, heavy equipment burn and consume more fuel and increase environmental pollution.
To address this issue of energy loss and increased emission, vehicle manufacturers have focused on the use of aluminium. European Aluminium Association (2011) claims that vehicles made of aluminium are lighter, durable, strong, and resistant to corrosion. They advocate the impact on the environment through replacement of other heavier materials with aluminium in vehicles to save the environment from approximately 20Kg of CO2 emissions by using 1kg aluminium (Iimori, and Hopper, 2016).
Another advantage of modern aluminium appliances relates to its use of conserving energy utilised in buildings. Chau et al. (2018) argue that over 40% of the energy produced globally is consumed making buildings habitable and constructing new buildings.
Therefore, the aluminium sector has the role of sustaining global energy by reducing energy consumed inside buildings and in the construction of buildings. It is believed that applying aluminium to make buildings can reduce energy consumption by approximately 50% (Hu and Plant, 2017).
Aluminium is the only metal that sustains the properties it possesses in its primary state after being recycled. This is the reason that aluminium is preferred to be used in a variety of sectors. The recycling of aluminium, as well as its production, become cost-effective procedures. Aluminium, once produced, can be recycled many times; however, now change in its properties would appear (Wong and Lavoie, 2019).
According to the European Aluminium (2016), and Çam and İpekoğlu (2017), aluminium is mostly preferred for its unique properties that make it the best material to use in building construction. The features of aluminium include high strength, durability, resistance to corrosion, and recyclability without loss of quality.
In the EU, market aluminium in the construction industry is preferred because it is easily extruded, rolled and cast into window frames and makes other graded alloys that support roofs of superstructures such as stadiums and facades of retail premises (Palazzo and Geyer, 2019). Other uses of aluminium include the making of curtain walls, handles in cast doors, staircases, and air conditioning systems (Çam and İpekoğlu, 2017).
In building green and smart houses, aluminium is used for lighting systems, air conditioning materials, and ensuring adequate ventilation for airflow inside the building (Huisingh et al., 2015). The characteristics of smart houses relate to having enhanced comfort. In this case, buildings use IT technology integrated with the system installed in the house to allow houses to respond to changes in the environment and give people comfort inside the house (Huisingh et al., 2015).
For example, use of aluminium has enabled engineers to build a house that harnesses natural light sourced from the sun or energy carriers, thus reducing the amount of energy that originates from electricity (Schiederig et al., 2012). As a result, natural light used in building leads to reduced cost of energy used in construction. To increase sustainability further, the engineers that plan for buildings and mega-structures could utilise aluminium to cut the cost of energy required to produce light particularly during daytime (Schiederig et al., 2012).
In the construction of heat and ventilation systems, aluminium offers the preferred choice materials to install systems that regulate temperature and humidity and help in removal of harmful compounds from inside houses. Schiederig, Tietze & Herstatt, (2012) argue that due to its properties of being light and robust, aluminium is the most efficient metal to use in the installation of systems inside and outside a house as it is believed to make buildings more stable.
Moreover, aluminium makes structures that increase the convenience and accessibility of buildings (Soosay et al., 2016). For instance, a modern building requires escalators to ease people’s movement inside the building. Aluminium can be used to make lighter lifts which facilitate building accessibility; the resulting philosophy establishes “designing manufacturing systems for purpose” (Soosay et al., 2016).
Other uses of aluminium are in making advance telecommunication systems and equipment. As the world is experiencing a technological revolution, aluminium facilitates the manufacturing of installation cables for internet and satellite communication, allowing a competitive advantage through a competitive strategy (Soosay et al., 2016).
Strategies to Sustain the Aluminium Sector in the EU
Dudin et al. (2017) indicate that four framework strategies can enable the aluminium sector in Europe to realise and sustain the region with low carbon emission and competitive supply to the market. The first strategy to apply his knowledge to allow the European Union to achieve the desired sustainability goals.
In the last decade, the EU, as well as the global economy, has become unsustainable due to challenges emanating from pollution, lack of water, raw material depletion, and climate change. The effects of the financial crisis affected almost every part of the world where some economies; such as Greece in the EU collapsed.
The efforts to search for solutions to curb the financial crisis led to the realisation that most businesses were using ineffective strategies or business models (Dudin et al., 2017). Melnikas (2010) advises that the EU aluminium sector and relevant stakeholders need to reconsider their business model to be able to sustain their businesses in a competitive environment.
The significance of knowledge in the contemporary society is to ensure that aluminium companies are getting the adequate information concerning best practices to apply during the process transforming aluminium products from raw form to end products (Vives, 2016).
The EU and U.S have used costly procedures and techniques in terms of energy use. Baldwin and Von Hippel (2011) argue that in order to compensate for the high cost of electricity, companies had to increase the prices of their final products. However, Spieth et al. (2014) and Pallaro et al. (2015) support the need to instigate change in the processes and adopt modern techniques.
As globalisation has taken effect and established roots, there is an increased spread of product from middle-class countries; such as China, India, and Indonesia. According to Pallaro et al. (2015), China and other entrant countries have been supplying the market with quality products at a lower price because they have incorporated new technology to reduce the cost of production efficiently.
This suggests that EU firms producing aluminium product need to employ knowledge and skill to reduce the cost of production by replacing the old inefficient system with new technology systems (Zink, Geyer and Startz, 2018).
The other importance of education regarding Aluminium usage is that it helps a society to implement the power concept. In this case, the power concept refers to the process that supports a nation to become knowledge-based economy (Melnikas, 2010). In the EU aluminium sector, the use of power is the concept which may help firms to modernise decision making and management of various sectors.
As a result, the knowledge-based economy will solve economic problems that emerge from the use of inferior quality materials and inefficient designs in constructions and buildings (Pallaro et al., 2015).
The second strategy to achieve sustainable development in the EU is by improving processing and aluminium functionalities. According to a study by Pallaro et al. (2015), to make a breakthrough, it is crucial to create a pleasant environment or enhanced collaboration in the value chain.
Baldwin and Von Hippel (2011) claim that through collaboration, stakeholders are capable of analysing weaknesses affecting a given market situation and use critical thinking to bring innovation and brainstorming of new ideas to improve the functionalities of a process and delivering of new products in the market.
The third strategy refers to the integration of the value chain. A study by Kalaitzi et al. (2018) confirms that having an effective value chain requires functioning logistics, a well-established supply chain and innovative team to supply the market with new products and ideas. This suggests that the aluminium industry must apply all three strategies to be able to maintain a lead in the market.
For example, globalisation has opened extended opportunities in different areas of the world (Matopoulos et al., 2018). In order for the EU aluminium sector to realise the sustainable development goals, stakeholders must be willing to invest in other external markets and improve areas; such as transport in order to improve transportation, sustain raw materials from the source and retain customers by supplying products in a regular pattern (Matopoulos et al., 2018).
The benefits of having a well-established supply chain include security from short-term volatility in the economy, hence maintenance of the prices of products without fluctuations (Chan et al., 2017). Furthermore, it gives companies the means of being flexible in responding to customer demands. In the aluminium industry, consumers may demand energy-efficient, light, durable, and corrosion-resistant materials for appliances in the domestic, transport, and construction sectors (Beck, 2016).
The change in demand will, therefore, be fulfilled by an adequate supply of aluminium products while observing time limits. As such, EU having a well-laid structure for supplying various products within Europe and other markets has higher chances in achieving sustainability (Chan et al., 2017).
Furthermore, having an efficient supply chain reduces waste products. For instance, the aluminium ore is called bauxite and has a significant percentage of iron oxide impurities. Having an integrated chain will facilitate the use of aluminium ore for processing at one point and transport the iron-rich waste product for further processing in other plants (Chan et al., 2017).
The fourth strategy to sustain EU aluminium sector refers to the implementation of circular management of metals or circular economy (Genovese et al., 2017). In this regard, the aluminium sector could prioritise producing and consuming materials’ sustainably without compromising the competitiveness in the European market and outside.
This suggests that companies should ensure that mining of raw material utilises efficient methods that do not pollute the environment and cause insignificant effects in an ecosystem (Genovese et al., 2017). The second strategy is based on the fact that used old aluminium products can undergo recycling without losing the quality of the original material.
Dutta et al. (2016) claim that the ability of aluminium to withstand multiple recycling without losing its original characteristics makes it a permanent material. In the case of permanent materials such as aluminium, an advantage is seen that after a series of melting and re-solidification, atomic bonds ideally result in a material with the same qualities just as the virgin or alloyed material (Cross, 2018).
Eurometaux (n.d) defines another critical strategy employed in the aluminium sector and advises good material stewardship that emphasises on laying a roadmap to source raw material from mines in a manner that adheres to the environment, and respects social and economic perspectives and policies applied by a country.
Therefore, the EU should focus on good material stewardship to ensure the use of suitable designs, recycling of used products, and maximising the re-use of aluminium products instead of disposing to landfill (Liu and O’brien, 2018).
According to Pallaro et al. (2015), several companies have adopted the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) to show the world the benefits from conducting and sustaining projects that are environmentally friendly. The objective of propagating the ASI is to address the environmental issue that may emerge as a result of the process of mining and processing raw materials, the social effects of manufacturing aluminium and the political impacts on the aluminium value chain (Pallaro et al., 2015).
As aluminium is lightweight and durable, manufacturers of cars and aeroplanes have adopted its use by recognising its economical fuel and reduced emissions advantages. Pallaro et al. (2015) support the notion that using aluminium is preferred for its recyclability without losing quality and is estimated to reduce the cost of production by 5% compared to the cost of processing virgin aluminium.
Challenges Affecting the EU Aluminium Sector
As the global trade thrives, the manufacturing industry increasingly receives orders to supply goods and serve the rising population. Aluminium products have various appliances in the domestic and industrial sector. The need to sustain the production of aluminium is therefore subject to several challenges.
Due to increased tariff wars between countries, the aluminium sector faces the threat of losing market and profits (Baldwin and Macdonald, 2009). In this case, the U.S steel products have a higher market price compared to the Chinese and EU products (Baldwin and Macdonald, 2009).
They suggest that the U.S continues to impose duties on imported products from the EU, Canada, and Mexico, and these countries have retaliated on imposing tariffs, thus declining the demand for aluminium products. As a result, tariff wars lead to declined job creation and affect government and private sectors due to declined taxes and profits (Jones and Ryan, 2016).
A study by Chittithaworn et al. (2011) revealed that manufacturing is reducing the talent to invent a new product to satisfy customer expectations. They claim that students in school currently prefer to take career courses in sectors such as information technology and computer sciences.
The manufacturing industry such as the aluminium sector in the EU and U.S. rely on the generation which is approaching the age of retirement. As they retire, crucial knowledge, skills, and mentorship will become scarce. This suggests that the Aluminium sector might lack experienced workers to work on and solve different challenges which arise during manufacturing. In order to realise a sustainable environment in the future, the manufacturing sector must commit to training a young generation to ensure having an informed future workforce (Galashev and Rakhmanova, 2017).
The dynamic nature of technology also threatens the aluminium sector as manufacturers are replacing the old system with new technology that keeps on advancing and requires constant updating. Firms are adopting new technology to automate production fully and have real-time analysis during manufacturing.
The EU firms may require adapting to and utilising new technology, taking care not to incur losses in maintenance and the cost of updating workers to operate new equipment (Jones and Ryan, 2016). In order to tackle the issue of technology change wisely, EU manufacturers are advised to incorporate robotics to perform production roles.
Garetti and Taisch (2012) argue that firms are targeting the use of robots by the year 2020. The advantages of using robots are speed, reliability, and improved production through overall operational excellence. Furthermore, robots are perfect and precise; thus, reducing the liability of producing defective products and total waste generated (Liu and O’brien, 2018).
The supply chain is another challenging factor affecting aluminium manufacturers in the EU. Garetti and Taisch (2012) claim that due to high competition in the manufacturing sector, projects depend on the timeframe, as delays may result in loss or fluctuating cost of production.
The EU aluminium sectors should understand that in order to remain productive, the supply chain should be well established to ensure that the customers get finished products. A study by Garetti and Taisch (2012) revealed that well-established supply chain enables companies to deliver and sell goods at a cheaper cost, increasing the opportunities of exploring new markets, thereby increasing profits and revenues.
This suggests that the EU has an opportunity to achieve a sustainable future by investing in the supply chain from the point of raw material collection to the delivery of finished products (Andre et al., 2017). However, an increase in demand leads to a rise in volume transported over various infrastructures such as road and railways.
The increase in volume leads to increased risk due to wear and tear in the transport systems. As such, the EU manufacturer could work in ensuring proper supply chain infrastructures and adequate funds for maintaining equipment (Okamoto and Matsuda, 2018).
Soosay et al., (2016) conducted a comparative study of strategies applied in the manufacturing sector in Sweden and Australia and their effectiveness in sustaining both industries competitiveness. The study compared various theories to explain the situation in different regions.
According to Soosay et al., (2016), the sustainability of companies can be described through the use of the market-based view and the resource-based approach. The market-based view (MBV) focuses on understanding the market environment to enable firms to align their plans to meet market needs.
The resource-based approach (RBA) focuses on the internal factors that determine an organisation’s competitiveness. For example, the MBV strategies guide organisations on ways to fight global competition through investing in machinery that is more efficient in production (Li, Zhang, Li and He, 2017).
On the RBA side, Soosay et al. (2016) argue that investing in modern machinery should be followed with adequate training of their employees to enable an efficacy approach. Soosay et al., (2016) study findings revealed despite Sweden and Australia being separated geographically, sustainable organisations must operate by analysing the market environment to avoid risks and losses.
This suggests that EU manufacturing companies can remain viable while applying the market-based theory to manage strategic resources, making appropriate decisions, and improving the internal capabilities of employees (Cochran, 2016).
CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
The study is focused towards determining whether there is potential for sustainable realisation within the European aluminium manufacturing sector. This chapter outlines the methodology for the research study. This chapter includes descriptions of the research questions, research design, population, and instrumentation.
This chapter is specifically designed to focus attention on the process of data gathering and emphasise that a qualitative approach has been selected. This allows the understanding and comprehension of why and how different research approaches and levels of research have been considered in its design. The selected design is characterised as a qualitative phenomenological research study; as such, it has the innate research strengths and limitations of the qualitative design of inquiry.
Therefore, this chapter is dedicated to presenting a systematic approach that has been adopted for the accomplishment of this study that involves a number of strategies and techniques that were utilised for exploring the outcomes of the study. Thus, the justification for the selection of each methodological component has also been provided in order to assist the reader in better understanding the path through which this study has been completed.
According to Edson, Henning and Sankaran (2016), there are a number of research philosophies namely positivism, interpretivism, realism, pragmatism etc. The term positivism relates to the concept of reality that is stable and that can be described or observed from the viewpoint of an objective without getting any phenomena to have interfered as they contended that must be isolated and the observations made must be able to be repeated.
On the other hand, Hughes and Sharrock (2016) stated that interpretivism concept defines that the subjective interpretation, as well as intervention, are the only way, in reality, to realise and interpret the reality. Moreover, the study of the phenomenon is that the natural environment is a key for interpretivism philosophy, along with the acceptance of researchers, it cannot resist those phenomenon being studied. The philosophy of realism is based upon the idea that the human mind reality is independent. It is also based on the idea of knowledge development and it portrays the world view from personal human senses.
In contrast, pragmatism research philosophy is based on the idea that the research or the world view must imply a mixed-method approach. This philosophy is a problem-oriented philosophy that have faith over the view that research methods who answer the research questions effectively are the best. In this research, the study employed a positivism research philosophy as it is the best match for the study.
It asserts that all the information enables verification and authentication of all the knowledge and considers only valid information as scientific. Researchers believe that the curricular dependence and scientific method of theory and observation should be replaced by the metaphysics in the historical thoughts.
There are primarily two research approaches namely deductive approach and inductive approach. The main difference between these two approaches is that the deductive approach is focused on analysing and testing theory while the inductive approach is focused on creating and developing new information or data. As per the study of Opie (2019), there are a number of theories that have been identified include deductive approach and inductive approach.
The deductive approach is based on developing hypothesis that are deduced on the basis of past observations and previous studies. On the other hand, Luton (2015) define inductive approach as an inference that is based upon predicting as well as developing theories considering a number of observations from different perspectives. Additionally, it is essential in finding the exploration related to wrongful facts and the approach that are useful for the past studies.
In this research, with the use of previous studies observations are gained to produce evaluations regarding the potential for sustainable realisation within the European aluminium manufacturing sector, therefore, the deductive approach has been adopted.
According to Creswell (2012), a phenomenological study describes the common meaning for many individuals’ “lived experiences of a phenomenon or concept”. “A phenomenological, qualitative research design is best suited for this study because” a detailed understanding of the central phenomenon must be reached between sustainable realisations and the European Aluminium Manufacturing sector. This methodology has been consistently employed with strong validity in psychology and perspectives of on leadership (Küpers, 2013; Thines, 2015).
Descriptive research design has been adopted for this research as the study is based on qualitative secondary analysis and descriptive studies put their interest in the description of the data, without conceptualisation or interpretation (they actually have a low level of interpretation). They try to describe life faithfully, what happens, what people say, how they say it and how they act.
They are usually presented as a narrative within this category, almost all the qualitative research carried out in Health Sciences is usually grouped. The efficacy of this research allows the researcher to assess matters to do with sustainability within the European aluminium manufacturing sectors.
It also provides efficacy in the assessment and analysis of both interest gleaned from company literature and peer analysis. This study design has also enabled the researcher to gather data from a pool of large aluminium production companies in Europe and beyond with varied characteristics and demographics.
Taylor, Bogdan and DeVault (2015) mentioned that there are two major research methods namely qualitative and quantitative research methods, and when on utilises both, it is called a mixed method. This study was based on qualitative secondary data and therefore only secondary data from published papers were considered for the collection of data.
According to McCusker and Gunaydin (2015), qualitative designs contain a number of strengths: there is potential for exploring issues in detail/depth, interviews are not restricted to specific questions (follow-up questioning possible), the data is based on human experience, subtleties/complexities can often be revealed, there is a potential for introduction of variables/concepts not considered by previous research or the researcher, and it is useful for examining attributes of a very specific population (Anderson, 2010).
Data Collection Method
As per Neelankavil (2015), there are two methods for the collection of data namely, primary data collection method and secondary data collection method. Primary data collection method collects first-hand information only, such as interviews and survey questionnaire.
However, Daas and Arends-Tóth (2012) stated that the second method includes collecting information from past publications and previous studies such as books, journal articles, magazines, newspapers, eBooks, reports etc. This study was based on a qualitative approach, therefore, only secondary data was gathered. The study employed secondary data only as it was difficult to gather the relevant information to the topic and meet objectives.
Moreover, it was also time-consuming and requires a lot of time to reach out to people in various locations and gather information. Accessibility to all the companies and employees were also a barrier in the collection of the information. Since the study area is European aluminium manufacturing sectors, data was obtained through existing secondary literature by means of aluminium company’s sustainability reports, along with peer-related articles for secondary sources.
Data Analysis Method
There are a number of methods for analysing the data such as for analysing qualitative data, content analysis or thematic analysis can be used. While for quantitative data, different tests can be executed using SPSS, and Microsoft Excel can also be used for presenting the gathered information using tables and charts and analysing the quantified structured data.
The focus of this present study was on the assessment of sustainability within the European aluminium sector. Therefore, a permutation of all-inclusive and definite strategies was critical for the researcher to analyse qualitative data from secondary literature through the categorical strategies.
In this research, the study adopts content analysis often referred to qualitative content analysis for analysing the information that has been gathered using past publications and previous studies. The study gathered information from the official reports published by the companies operating in the sector as well as governmental offices that allowed the researcher to gather an enormous amount of data that is based on real-time information.
Ethical considerations were given high priority while conducting this study. All the key component of ethics such as anonymity, autonomy, and confidentiality were considered. This study was based on secondary data only and no primary data was used for the accomplishment of this study.
Therefore, there was no risk of privacy invasion or unauthorized use. However, the author also considered citing the original sources from where they extracted secondary data or information for completing the study such as published journal articles, books, news articles etc.
The primary limitations were those elements that are innate to qualitative research. Qualitative research is often critiqued for being biased, anecdotal, of a small scale, and lacking rigour; however, when carried out properly, it can provide unbiased, in-depth, reliable, and credible information (Anderson, 2010). Primary limitations to qualitative research include dependency on individual skills of the researcher, difficulty in rigour, volume/time consumption, the researcher’s presence in data collecting, and issues of confidentiality (Anderson, 2010).
While this study was not revolutionary in the sense that it eliminated all innate limitations to qualitative design, attention to mitigate the limitations through researcher skill and design were at the forefront of the design process. One limitation of this study is that the sample was not truly representative. In this capacity, it was impossible to interview every leader within the population being examined.
The chapter was based on presenting the methodology of this research and presented all the tools and techniques that were used for conducting the study and accomplishing the research. This chapter also emphasised that the study is based on qualitative secondary data only and therefore the information was analysed using qualitative content analysis. Thus, this would allow the reader to have an idea regarding the path upon which the study is conducted.
CHAPTER FOUR: DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS
This section presents research data from secondary sources such as journals, books, articles and online data. This section presents research findings for the potential sustainability realisation of European aluminium Sector. The principal source of data is the reports on the sustainability of the companies of aluminium, such as Archonic, Alcoa, Eval etc. The findings will be interpreted according to the study’s research goals. In the chapter of methodology, the approach for analysis of the data is already discussed.
The societies of the 21st century continue to face tremendous challenges with sustainable development. Many theories on how to accomplish sustainable development at a macroeconomic scale have been introduced. Such ideas are built on numerous of perspectives and behaviour of political, social and environmental processes and are legitimised by environmental and economic theories.
The transformation of these broad concepts and metrics underlying them are concrete definitions and tangible measures useful for day to day business decisions, that is an overriding goal for businesses trying to promote profitability in company or industry level (Spangenberg, 2002).
It is important for businesses and industries to know what kinds of goals and actions lead to sustainable development. This is valid for economic goals (high profitability, high rate margins, lower costs investment, etc.) and social goals (from satisfaction of workers, low unemployment levels to overall social stability) as well as for ecological (high life cycle asset productivity; low pollution, high biodiversity, low deforestation, etc.) (Hellström, and Olsson, 2017).
Through mechanical and physical processing, the basic properties of aluminium do not alter. Aluminium is essentially sustainable: it can be re-used in the manufacturing of consumer and industrial products without loss of quality and regularly be recycled when manufactured.
In addition, organic compounds which are made up of carbon such as natural fibre, wood, and plastics are composed of large molecules, which break the binding force and structure of each molecule by repeated heating and cooling and mechanistic processing and thus alter the original properties of the substance (Arnold, and Janßen, 2018).
Aluminium also has unique physical properties in comparison to other metallic materials in addition to its elementary nature. Many aluminium alloys have elevated strength-to-weight ratios, others have exceptional thermal and electrical conductivity, some even have incredible resistance to corrosion, and most of them are completely able to melt, elastic and have a high surface resistance. The aluminium industry has been able to produce a large number of high-quality and sustainable goods because of its inherent physical uniqueness.
Realising Economic, Social and Environmental Sustainability
In manufacturing and designing its products, the aluminium industry took a life-cycle approach. This approach highlights product management, services and business responsibilities during the entire product life – from product manufacturing to recycling to creating new products (Hellström, and Olsson, 2017).
Regardless of aluminium production, it involves resource management, reducing consumption of energy, pollution and releases of waste to the atmosphere and concentrating on the financial, social and environmental advantages of goods for society overall. The first viewpoints and recommendations for sustainable development for different agencies were provided in studies like “Industry and Sustainable Development,” Sustainable Europe and the establishment of regional Agenda projects by different communities and cities.
Various organisations had already adopted sustainable objectives and macro indicators (e.g. UNCSD, Eurostat, the OECD, the Enquete Commission of Enquiry, the Environment and Development Forum) at the economic level that cannot, however, be automatically implemented in the aluminium industry Europe (Valentin, and Spangenberg, 2000).
Different principles such as’ Industrial metabolism, sustainable growth,” Factor 4/10′ Ecosystem efficiency’ and’ Resource management’ and social responsibility,’ are also recommended for application of sustainability in the aluminium sector. However, all forms of ecological priorities and capital goals are formulated nationally and internationally.
Moreover, working on indicators to depict the efficiency of the regional or national economies on sustainable and eco-efficient issues are the OECD, UNCSD and the European Environment Agency (Arnold, and Janßen, 2018).
Sustainability within the European Aluminium Industry
The European aluminium sector encourages the philosophy of the life cycle and the use of Life Cycle Association (LCA) to support and drive environmental changes to the production of aluminium goods in a framework of life cycle (Bailey, and Gadd, 2016). If Life Cycle Association organisations make use of EU statistics on aluminium goods, the European Aluminium Association provides information and data to provide the best possible details according to the research purpose or context. The European aluminium sector aims to reduce its operations and goods ‘ which affects the environmental footprint by:
Production and energy efficient usage;
Decreases in air and water emissions;
At the end of the product cycle, high recycling rates.
After use, aluminium products become the precious reusable resource, which can be recycled efficiently via well-established collection schemes. Today, the European recycling rates for end products for the care sector and construction industry are around 90 million (Neuhoff, et al., 2017).
The rates of recovery of the aluminium wrapping used different methods according to specific products and processing procedures in the various countries. In 2010 the official rate of European recovery of aluminium canned goods hit 67% by taking unofficial recycling routes into account (Grasso, and Tàbara, 2019). As the current range of aluminium items is extremely broad, the recycling levels at end-of-life differs greatly.
The European aluminium industry, as supported by the entire metal industry, proposes the environmental advantages of recycling via the end-of-life recycling and not via an incomplete and limited environmental approach to metal products (Caravaggio, et al., 2017). A product life cycle and materiel processing view are focused on the end-of-life reuse strategy.
The fate of products and consequent material output flows is considered after their use. In order to take into account, the advantages of aluminium recycling to LCA the European aluminium industry advocates the use of the so-called replacement process. The technical paper “Aluminium recycling in LCA,” which can be downloaded from the EAA website, through which the experts thoroughly explain this methodology (Bailey, and Gadd, 2016).
The aluminium sector is increasing its efforts to disseminate information on its metal and its products and to improve their comprehension. In doing this, aluminium will be used for larger and more sustainable solutions— lowering the weight of transport vehicles, constructing greener homes, avoiding food and drink spoilage and generating sustainable energy sources, such as solar and wind power.
The report of environmental sustainability includes updated data on aluminium manufacturing and transformation frameworks in Europe for the lifecycle inventory (LCI). The report and the LCI data related to the two relevant ISO standards ISO 14040 and 14044 which are completely developed and implemented in the aluminium production industries of Europe (Valentin, and Spangenberg, 2000).
In respect to climate change, which is of great concern to many investors, the European aluminium sector understands and is dedicated to mitigating the threat of global warming. The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions has been a focus in recent years, particularly as the risk from global warming becomes apparent.
Consequently, the aluminium industry has invested in emissions reduction technology, especially Perfluorocarbons PFCs (Spangenberg, and Bonniot, 2018). The sector has concluded regional voluntary agreements on greenhouse gas emission mitigation in many countries throughout Europe.
The Range of Sustainable Information across the European Aluminium Sector
The aluminium industry has made extensive efforts over the past two decades to follow, understand and communicate the environmental effects of products from cradle to cradle in our industry — both regionally and globally (Lamprinaki, 2016). The aluminium industry through the International Aluminium Institute (IAI) and the other regional associations including the Aluminium Association has clearly defined and shared its responsibility for such efforts (Hellström, and Olsson, 2017).
Data collection on resource mining and primary metal production (bauxite mining and alumina refining) is managed by IAI, while regional or country levels are managed for secondary metal, product semi-finishing, product use and final recycles and disposal. Categories of data analysis involve power use, energy resources and material consumption, large and sensitive releases of environmental products, pattern of product use, and the end-of-life recycling disposal rate of products (Caravaggio, et al., 2017).
The daily compilation of these information helps the company to better assess the environmental impact and the net benefits to society of its goods. Data analysis helps the market to recognise key issues that help guide the behaviour of businesses, organisations and the global industry in order to improve Stock, et al. 2018).
Throughway of this report, the customer and the general public can better understand the environmental impacts involved with the use of the material, thereby making an informed decision. The information provides for the full disclosure of the life-cycle quality of aluminium goods. In terms of the viability of its operations, the aluminium industry aims to provide its stakeholders with the highest levels of transparency.
The industry is convinced that it will be possible for society to determine objective environmental effects associated with these materials and their products only through the release of comprehensive life cycle data–from aluminium and competing for material industries (Lamprinaki, 2016).
As outlined in the last chapter of this document, it remains a task for the aluminium industry to fully utilise the value of aluminium as a renewable commodity. These challenges include conserving energy and resource resources, minimising waste, and carefully recycling and preserving future generations ‘ materials.
Such daunting obstacles can be turned into prospects for a more sustainable future for the sector. The survival of a commodity such as aluminium is focused not only on efforts in production but also on the actions of society as a whole. The Aluminium association continues to collect quality information to help in these endeavours.
It carries out modern research, study and analysis. The findings are communicated transparently in order to inform many companies and corporations, including consumers, manufacturers, governmental and non-governmental organisations (Ramcilovic-Suominen, and Pülzl, 2018).
The Aluminium association continues to collect quality information to help in these endeavours. It carries out modern research, study and analysis. The findings are communicated transparently in order to inform many companies and corporations, including consumers, manufacturers, governmental and non-governmental organisations.
Management Strategies for a Sustainable Firm
It was a core business policy and a long-term commitment to producing sustainable services by the aluminium industry in Europe. In this context, the industry has concentrated on all aspects of a globally accepted three-pronged sustainable development concept: economic advantages, environmental sustainability and social health and well-being (Stock, et al. 2018).
“life-cycle thinking” and the management of its products are a key approach taken by the industry to sustainable development. The traditional approach to business and environmental management primarily focusses on regulation and monitoring at the plant stage.
Such method discusses just one step in a product’s life cycle (including service) and thereby only a substantial part of the bigger system (Spangenberg, and Bonniot, 2018). This method is inadequate because it does not comprise of isolation of a commodity or an industrial activity but is part of a complex framework.
The broader program encompasses all the stages of the life cycle of a product including removal and storage of raw materials, design and production, packaging and shipment, use and repair, and reuse, disposal and recycling. The complex contact with the world of every point of the life cycle.
A life cycle approach is an approach to the system in product sustainability management that takes into account product manufacturing, consumption and end-of-life management. The approach to the life cycle avoids the problem of shifting, i.e. problems which move from one phase, place or one generation to the next; the approach crosses traditional frontiers of one-stages focusing and enables all three aspects of the third phase economic, environmental and social to be tackled simultaneously (Grasso, and Tàbara, 2019).
Along with all the other material industries, during material production and product manufacturing procedures, the aluminium industry requires substantial amounts of energy and natural resources. But many extractive industries are not stable in their activities at present.
The aluminium industry tries to make itself distinctive by ensuring that its products are sustainable throughout its life cycle: extraction of resources, production of materials, manufacture of products, product use and end of life processing (Ramcilovic-Suominen, and Pülzl, 2018).
The purpose of this project is to provide the community with products that are manufactured and crafted safely, have sustainable solutions and are reused during their productive lives so that the future generations may reuse everything indefinitely.
Value Chain in Sustainable Realisation within the European Aluminium Manufacturing Sector
According to the report of 2015 Sustainability Highlights (2015), it provides a snapshot of how the industry is progressing towards the targets of the Roadmap, from economic, environmental and social perspectives. It reports 2015 data collected directly from aluminium companies operating in Europe.
The baseline for the objectives in the Sustainability Roadmap is 2012. In addition, Alt et al. (2015) added that it is also possible to identify longer trends, as European Aluminium began collecting indicators in the 1990s. The figures provide an industry-wide average, covering EU28 and EFTA countries, unless stated otherwise.
Harrison and Von Scheele (2009) argued that in order to tackle the sector’s innovation challenges and help build a sustainable Europe, European Aluminium launched its Innovation Hub in 2015, voluntarily supported by member companies. There is a growing demand for aluminium products, driven by their unique properties. Aluminium is endlessly recyclable, strong yet light, corrosion free and durable, and energy saver, incredibly versatile and a complete barrier.
From 2012 to 2015, 2015 Sustainability Highlights (2015) believes that European production of aluminium products increased on average by 6%. This growth was reflected in almost all markets; only the extrusion segment showed more modest growth. Production increased by 6% between 2012 and 2015.
Flat-Rolled Products – used in beverage cans or cars – amounted to 5.1 million tonnes in 2016; a growth of 1.9% is forecast for 2017, according to 2015 Sustainability Highlights (2015). Extruded products – used in windows and machinery – saw a 1.6% increase in 2016 to 3.0 million tonnes and the foreseen growth for 2017 is 1.2%. These increases are against a backdrop of ongoing pressure from imports (Liu and Müller, 2012).
2015 Sustainability Highlights (2015) stated that a strong industrial base is vitally important to Europe’s long-term prosperity and growth. Aluminium is central to this story. In Europe, the industry accounts for an annual turnover of 39.5 billion euros and supports around 1 million direct and indirect jobs.
Building a strong and sustainable industrial base is only possible with investment. That is why the industry currently invests nearly 2 billion euros on average each year. The R&D intensity of the European aluminium industry is greater than the average of the industrial metals and mining sector (Gao et al., 2009).
Tietenberg and Lewis (2016) mentioned that the priority is to send employees and contractors home safe and sound. Thanks to investments in training programmes and prevention, the record has improved, although it has plateaued since 2008. European Aluminium proactively encourage a culture of safety throughout the sector, with a workshop and a competition recognising and rewarding the best safety innovations.
European Aluminium is developing common leading indicators that will further help to avoid accidents. Employee welfare is a new area of cooperation within our industry; one where it will continuously develop expertise. The priority is to promote gender equality, skills management and career development. Training is vital in attracting and safeguarding competencies within the aluminium industry and for operating safely and sustainably (McMillan and Keoleian, 2009).
Boiral et al. (2015) added that value-sharing programmes help reconnect company success with social progress. European Aluminium is developing a database that includes information on local circumstances, a description of the specific initiative and the lessons learned/outcomes. European Aluminium seeks to ensure the full use of aluminium’s enabling properties.
European Aluminium is developing promotional and educational material for customers and citizens in its main applications. European Aluminium is also involved in the Every Can Counts programme. Operating in 10 European countries, the initiative encourages people to recycle the cans they consume ‘on the go’ and at out of home events (such as concerts, festivals, sports events) (Feng, Zou and Wei, 2011).
Recyclability in Sustainable Realisation within the European Aluminium Manufacturing Sector
It contributes to the circular economy with market-specific recycling action plans and supports the phase-out of landfilling of aluminium recyclable waste. Aluminium is endlessly recyclable, and 75% of all aluminium ever produced is still in use today, according to 2015 Sustainability Highlights (2015).
On automotive, European Aluminium has conducted interviews of leading end-of-life vehicle processing plants to collect the most accurate data. On the packaging, European Aluminium has set a voluntary target of 80% by 2020 for recycling used beverage cans, focusing on ‘out of home’ consumption.
To facilitate a closed cycle for recycling aluminium in buildings and ensure that the recyclable materials collected remain in Europe, several aluminium companies are working together in the A/U/F organisation.
According to Dutta et al. (2016), the ability of aluminium to withstand multiple recycling without losing its original characteristics makes it a permanent material. In the case of permanent materials such as aluminium, an advantage is seen that after a series of melting and re-solidification, atomic bonds ideally result in a material with the same qualities just as the virgin or alloyed material.
However, Løvik, Modaresi and Müller (2014) states that another way employed in the aluminium sector and advises good material stewardship that emphasises on laying a roadmap to source raw material from mines in a manner that adheres to the environment, and respects social and economic perspectives and policies applied by a country.
Therefore, the EU should focus on good material stewardship to ensure the use of suitable designs, recycling of used products, and maximising the re-use of aluminium products instead of disposing to landfill (Gao et al., 2009).
Boiral et al. (2015) argued that various industries have used palliative approaches to mitigate different types of pollution. For example, Boiral et al. (2015) say that many organisations employ environmental equipment and install end-of-pipe control systems to regulate pollution and train employees on environmental protection strategies.
These techniques are inadequate to provide a significant change in order to mitigate pollution from its sources; therefore, greater emphasis must be placed on educating stakeholders concerning processes that lead to increased pollution and the work habits that promote the creation of pollutant wastes. This initiative encourages facilities to focus on establishing measures and procedures to regulate the formation of pollutants from the point of the source during daily activity (Feng, Zou and Wei, 2011).
Calel and Dechezlepretre (2016) added that in order to maintain a clean environment, it is crucial to reduce the impacts of greenhouse gases produced during mining, processing, or recycling of aluminium products. In Europe, 2015 Sustainability Highlights (2015) stated that a policy known as the Emission Trading System (ETS) was established to advocate for the reduction of carbon emission, using effective projects to introduce efficient methods of production and enhance the technical know-how of stakeholders to produce aluminium products.
In order to ensure the reduction of carbon emissions, companies should focus on adopting electro-intensive processing units. In this regard, companies that use electricity in production reduce carbon emissions significantly, as aluminium is known for being energy efficient (Liu and Müller, 2012).
According to Pallaro et al. (2015), several companies have adopted the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) to show the world the benefits from conducting and sustaining projects that are environmentally friendly. The objective of propagating the ASI is to address the environmental issue that may emerge as a result of the process of mining and processing raw materials, the social effects of manufacturing aluminium and the political impacts on the aluminium value chain.
As aluminium is lightweight and durable, manufacturers of cars and aeroplanes have adopted its use by recognising its economical fuel and reduced emissions advantages. Pallaro et al. (2015) also supported the notion that using aluminium is preferred for its recyclability without losing quality and is estimated to reduce the cost of production by 5% compared to the cost of processing virgin aluminium.
As per the sustainability report of Alcoa, the company is taking part actively in each community that they operate across the globe. The aim of Alcoa is to make those communities thrive as they view the presence as an opportunity for helping and developing as well as enabling practices of economic and environmental activities including social programs that would continue even after their role ends (Alcoa Sustainability Report, 2018).
Moreover, Arconic believes that only sustainable organisations shape the future by fulfilling the societal needs in the present. A remarkable achievement that Arconic made was that the company took over 3 companies in 2017 namely Firth Rixson, TITAL and RTI, and all of them successfully reflected the sustainability throughout the dimensions (Arconic, 2017).
Environmental Impacts on Sustainable Realisation within the European Aluminium Manufacturing Sector
According to 2015 Sustainability Highlights (2015), European Aluminium and its members are committed to enhancing the development and uptake of sourcing and traceability standards. Members can choose these standards provided they ensure the same level of ambition.
Primary production, with electricity costs up to 40% of the production costs, is the most-energy intensive segment. Following decades of continuous improvement, current technology is approaching its technical limits. Hence, energy efficiency is one of the priorities of the Innovation Hub.
The industry’s commitment to lowering its direct GHG emissions and continuous investments to improve production processes have enabled a reduction of 53% since 1997. Innovation breakthroughs and the EU legislative framework are two important levers for further improvement. European Aluminium calls for a more predictable and workable EU Emissions Trading System for 2021-2030 (Liu and Müller, 2012).
2015 Sustainability Highlights (2015) stated that European Aluminium has mapped the amounts and nature of the main waste streams across the value chain and is assessing them to identify alternatives to landfill. It will compile a catalogue of best practices, including industrial symbioses and joint R&D projects, to support companies’ efforts.
On the other hand, water is a key resource requiring specific attention. Available tools to identify water-scarce areas are undergoing assessment. Furthermore, best practices on how to develop effective water management plans will be shared across the sector. The priority is to send the employees and contractors home safe and sound. Thanks to investments in training programmes and prevention, the record has improved, although it has plateaued since 2008.
European Aluminium proactively encourage a culture of safety throughout the sector with a workshop and a competition recognising and rewarding the best safety innovations. They are developing common leading indicators that will further help to avoid accidents (McMillan and Keoleian, 2009).
Improving energy efficiency in the use phase. Thanks to its unique properties, aluminium can offset its initial energy use by providing significant savings during its use phase. Aluminium improves the energy performance of buildings, notably via windows, curtain walls and ventilated facades.
In mobility, the lightweight properties of aluminium directly contribute to making vehicles more energy-efficient, reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Aluminium packaging contributes to resource efficiency; the average weight of a beverage can has been reduced by more than a third in the last 20 years (Huisingh et al., 2015).
As per Huisingh et al. (2015), in building green and smart houses, aluminium is used for lighting systems, air conditioning materials, and ensuring adequate ventilation for airflow inside the building. The characteristics of smart houses relate to having enhanced comfort.
In this case, buildings use IT technology integrated with the system installed in the house to allow houses to respond to changes in the environment and give people comfort inside the house. For example, Schiederig et al. (2012) stated that the use of aluminium has enabled engineers to build a house that harnesses natural light sourced from the sun or energy carriers, thus reducing the amount of energy that originates from electricity.
As a result, natural light used in building leads to reduced cost of energy used in construction. To increase sustainability further, the engineers that plan for buildings and mega-structures could utilise aluminium to cut the cost of energy required to produce light particularly during daytime (Gao et al., 2009).
CHAPTER FIVE: CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The demand for aluminium products is growing because of their uniqueness. Aluminium can be continuously recycled, strong but lightweight, corrosion-free and durable, energy-saving and incredibly versatile. In a variety of tactical uses, including flexibility, packaging and building, aluminium is the product of choice.
Recent survey predicts that in the next 10 years the aluminium content in automobiles will rise by up to 30%. Literature has identified that with increasing worldwide population, declining natural resources, together with the deteriorating environment, the whole industry involved in European aluminium production is specifically obliged to undertake a greater role in guiding the society to extend and even deepen the usage of aluminium for realising sustainable solutions.
This is both an opportunity and an obligation for the entire players within the industry. It is the responsibility of the aluminium industry to educate engineers, developers and product designers on the aspects of aluminium sustainability products and relevant application, put together with their general functionality.
On a similar note, both the consumers and the manufacturers in renewable energy and consumer electronics industry should be suitably educated on the general cost savings and the overall societal sustainability gains of aluminium solutions in comparison with other relevant material solutions, more also plastics.
The Report shows that the industry is progressing on its goal to reach its greenhouse gas mitigation capacity by 2050 as set out in the Sustainability Roadmap towards 2025, commented Gerd Götz, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the European Aluminium Association. In most aspects of low carbon production, aluminium production in Europe is now the world leader.
For example, the carbon intensity of the production of European primary aluminium, which is the world’s largest primary aluminium manufacturer, is about 3 times lower. The report covers the environmental impact of the whole aluminium value chain in Europe, from steel supply-primary and recycling-to semi-finishing-rolling, foil and extrusion.
In addition to providing accurate and reliable information on the environmental quality of the aluminium sector in Europe, it also provides the Life-Cycle Inventory (LCI) datasets for the main system steps required for the measurement. Depending on 2015 information from European Aluminium Member States, these latest databases upgrade the versions from 2010.
The overall complexity and sophistication of the current society requires products that offer systemic solutions to the daily needs of individuals, while at the same time preserving the ecosystems, natural resources and recycling the relevant materials for usage by the generations to come.
While usage of aluminium in buildings can greatly assist in saving energy and improve the general comfort, maximising the overall efficiencies usually requires true integration of the specific aluminium architecture such as curtainwalls, facades, windows, rooves and roof-related natural light devices, sunshades and screens, devices of renewable energy, toxin- and emission-free decorations, HVAC systems, among some other things.
The great demand for sustainable solutions has never been more urgent. Melding the concept of sustainability with some sort of functionality is a real challenge and an opportunity, not only for the players in the aluminium industry but also for the competitors.
The main functions of the Aluminium Association in the general sustainability movement are to identify information and matrices that assist in guiding the industry along with society to remain consistently on the path of sustainable development. For this important role to get fulfilled, greater capacity development is required with regards to expertise and knowledge, as well as relevant resources.
The association has traditionally been underfunded when compared to some other material industries found in the region. A substantial amount of funding is specifically required to support global efforts, whilst maintaining a coordinated vigil to ensure this is utilised in an effective manner.
Additionally, focus and drive should be provided to enhance the reality of aluminium as a worldwide product. Great steps have already been made. The aluminium production association within Europe has already determined that it will specifically concentrate all its future efforts in a number of areas which include: regular and streamlined collection of data of the annual energy and material consumption, together with environmental emissions and releases from the production facilities of the industry found in the region; Information and data collection on the use phase of main categories of aluminium products, with regards to the general functionality, service life, use pattern, material and energy demand for maintenance, as well as the quantifiable possible overall benefits that is brought to the society, when comparison is done to the other alternative materials.
The aluminium production association should equally push for bonafide regulation as well as legislation on recycling, and equally undertake active communications with the known stakeholders and the public. It is important to note, however, that all these actions do not automatically result in sustainability practices within the aluminium industry.
Sustainability itself is very much a constant movement that requires all societal members to participate; the majority of the sustainability efforts do not result into any form of immediate or dramatic findings. Sustainability must be incorporated fully and embedded into the daily lives of people, individual business practices, and as overall community operations.
Reports have proved that aluminium production association is very proud of the recent past performance of the industry, and at the same time, is very much aware of the specific opportunities and challenges that are lying ahead of it. The association has expressed great confidence in aluminium’s future as an interactional sustainable solution.
A critical step toward sustainability is the efficient use of limited resources. The source of raw material is responsible for promoting best practices from an environmental, economic and social perspective. European aluminium and its leaders are committed to improving the development and implementation of principles for procurement and traceability.
Members can choose these standards as long as the same level of ambition is guaranteed. The next major step is to increase fuel efficiency and increasing the use of industrial power by 10% per ton of manufactured or refined aluminium in Europe by 2025 relative to 2012 rates. The most energy-intensive sector is the main product category, with power prices rising to 40% of the production costs.
The current technology is now reaching its technical limits after decades of continuous improvement. As such, the Innovation Hub focuses on energy efficiency. Reducing greenhouse gas pollution is yet another leap toward conservation, focused on identifying a sustainable path to realise greenhouse gas efficiency in the sector by 2050. Since 1997 the sector has lowered the specific emissions of GHGs and ongoing expenditures to develop production processes by 53%.
The EU regulatory structure and technology breakthroughs were two essential tools to progress more. By 2021-2030, European aluminium needs the EU emissions trading scheme to be more transparent and viable. The key sustainable development priority is industrial waste treatment. Moreover, to eliminate and reuse as much industrial waste as feasible and to prohibit the landfill for hazardous recyclable industrial waste.
The key waste sources have been identified throughout the value chain and analysed by European aluminium in order to identify options for sites of disposal. In order to support business efforts, the government had compiled a catalogue of best practices, including industrial symbiosis and joint R&D projects.
Voluntary guidelines for bauxite residue management have also been developed. Finally, water management improvements are part of the sustainable development programme. It is based on the identification of water-scarce areas and the implementation of specific management programs at these sites. Water is a vital asset that needs particular attention. There is an analysis of available tools to locate water-scarce areas. In addition, best practices will be discussed across the industry on how to build effective water management strategies.
Similar to other investigations, the present research detailed various confinements. The investigation was founded on the officially existing optional information as there is no single essential information available for comparison. That implies that the examination just introduces the assessment of creators in the selected archives utilised.
Another test confronted was obtaining the correct number of articles to use in the investigation. Very few investigations have been done on sustainability in the aluminium manufacturing industry and obtaining articles to assist the ebb and flow research was a noteworthy test. These difficulties were overcome as unambiguous mediations and were embraced to dispense with each challenge individually.
Suggestions for Future Research
In view of the above impediments, the present investigation suggests future further examination on a similar point utilising both essential and auxiliary information to affirm the discoveries of this investigation. Further qualitative and quantitative examination would likewise be appropriate in exploring the systems that are presented by organisations to guarantee sustainability within the aluminium manufacturing sector. Such extra investigations should include consultations and propagation of surveys to senior employees at various organisations within the aluminium generation industry.
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