Novelis Sustainability Report reveals increased use of recycled content as waste to landfill rises

Aluminium rolling and recycling business Novelis has published its Sustainability Report for the 2017 fiscal year, revealing that 55 per cent of the company’s inputs now come from recycled materials, a two per cent increase on the previous year.

Across each of its three core markets - automotive, beverage cans and high end speciality products - Novelis said it is committed to providing up to 80 to 90 per cent recycled aluminium content for its customers.

However, Novelis has reported a rise in the amount of waste going to landfill, from 6.3 to 7.5 kilogrammes per metric tonne, taking the company further from its goal of 5.8 for the 2020 financial year.

Novelis Sustainability Report reveals increased use of recycled content as waste to landfill rises

The company, which saw its net income rise from $24 million (£18.42 million) to $101 million (£77.5 million) in the first quarter of 2017/18 operates the world’s largest aluminium recycling facility, in Germany, and claims to recycle approximately 60 billion used beverage cans per year, as well as to purchase a ‘significant amount’ of customers’ scrap aluminium to be reused.

Closed loop success

The report shows Novelis’ commitment to establishing and improving closed loop recycling systems, and the company’s automotive partners have reported strong recycling figures through the development of their own such systems with help from Novelis.

Ford is able to recycle and reuse upwards of 90 per cent of scrap aluminium generated during the stamping process for their popular F-series trucks, which Novelis says is enough to produce a further 30,000 F-150 bodies per month.

Another similar project aimed to boost the amount of recycled aluminium used in Jaguar Land Rover vehicles, and has seen 50,000 tonnes of scrap aluminium reused, the equivalent of 200,000 Jaguar XE body shells. Novelis said that this project prevented over 500,000 tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. 

Alongside these figures, Novelis' greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by 19 per cent since the baseline was established in 2006/07, and water usage has already reached the 2020 target, a reduction of 22 per cent.

However, as stated above, Novelis has also reported a rise in the amount of waste going to landfill. Due to the difficulty of recycling dross - a byproduct of the recycling process formed of the impurities of molten metals, which represents 70 per cent of the company’s entire waste stream - Novelis announced in 2016 that it would be altering its goal of zero landfill waste to a more realistic aim: to reduce non-dross waste by 30 per cent on an intensity basis by 2020. This year 82 per cent of non-dross waste was recycled, and 84 per cent of dross, which shows no change from the previous year.

‘Challenges to overcome’

Steve Fisher, President and Chief Executive Officer of Novelis, wrote in the report: ‘Over the past year, we have been encouraged by our progress, but acknowledge we still have some challenges to overcome [...] Our waste to landfill rate and energy intensity increased in the 2017 financial year, presenting us with an opportunity to use our technical and operational expertise to solve these challenges at our recycling and manufacturing facilities worldwide.’

The repeated refrain throughout the report is of the ongoing challenges facing the recycling industry, and the importance of developing new initiatives to tackle these issues.

Looking to the future, the company has invested in a partnership with Discovery Education, sister company to the Discovery Channel with a network of 3.5 million educators and 38 million students. The programme Novelis developed, called ‘Life of a Can’, hopes to teach young people about the value of recycling and ultimately to ‘inspire lifelong recyclers’ through the use of digital educational resources, all available at on the programme's website. These materials include videos, lesson plans and activities for students, teachers and parents.

Altogether in the 2017 fiscal year, 86 Novelis Volunteer Projects were focused on recycling initiatives, and the company has supported advocacy organisations such as The Recycling Partnership, a US nonprofit aiming to improve residential recycling rates.

The full report is available to read on the Novelis website.

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