THE GREEN AGENDA - ALUMINIUM FOR A SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT
“As the global fight against plastic pollution has become more pertinent that ever before, industries are collectively on the lookout for an alternative to put an end to this global crisis. Aluminium, commonly referred to as the green metal has emerged as the next best alternative and is fulfilling the needs of industries that are aiming to be more responsible towards the environment”, writes K R Raghunath, Vice Chairman, Jindal Aluminium Limited.
World economies have progressed rapidly with technological and scientific advancements in the last decade. While world leaders have dedicated their efforts towards digital literacy and economic progress, we have one important battle to fight. Globally, we leave behind 2.12 billion tonnes of waste annually out of which 400 million tonnes in plastic. The global statistics for the usage of plastic are alarming. One million plastic bottles are purchased daily and 5 trillion plastic bags are used yearly. While we have made strides towards eliminating plastic, the annual consumption of plastic is set to cross half a trillion metric tonnes by 2021, setting us back in our efforts of a plastic free environment.
The toxic chemicals from plastic are found in the blood and tissue of nearly all of us, and are linked to cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, and other ailments, proving to be a hazard to our entire ecosystem. The downsides of using plastic are plenty and the world today is bearing the brunt of our unchecked growth. There is tremendous pressure on fresh water, environment and public health due to rapid urbanization. This has led to the dire need to move towards responsible development. It is important to synergise efforts towards environment sustainability in the coming years and adopt alternative resources without compromising the needs of the generations to come. The United Nations in 2015, laid down a total of 17 goals to serve as a blueprint to achieve a sustainable future for all intended to be achieved by 2030. The SDG report calls for waste management and recycling of resources as a priority for countries, in order to further lower the CO2 emissions. While countries, organisations and individuals are collectively trying to accomplish these goals, we still have a long way to go.
The rise of aluminium as an alternative
As the global fight against plastic pollution has become more pertinent that ever before, industries are collectively on the lookout for an alternative to put an end to this global crisis. Aluminium, commonly referred to as the green metal has emerged as the next best alternative and is fulfilling the needs of industries that are aiming to be more responsible towards the environment. One of the fundamental properties that differentiate aluminium from other metals with regard to sustainability is the recyclable nature of aluminium. While only 9% of plastic gets recycled, aluminium is 100 % recyclable making it an apt choice for companies who are looking to adopt greener resources and materials.
Aluminium has been fuelling the growth of industries for years and is now an integral component for sustainable development, right from building & construction, transportation, electrical to packaging. Aluminium is increasingly replacing plastic in almost all sectors. Countering the harmful impact that plastic has on the environment, aluminium leaves a very low carbon footprint, making it a preferred metal. With a tensile strength ranging from 40 MPa to 700 MPa, it is preferred by end users over other metals. When exposed to external materials, aluminium is highly corrosion resistant and can retain its properties under severe conditions. Plastic on the other hand undergoes environmental degradation. As opposed to plastic and its toxic components, aluminium is non-toxic in nature and therefore poses a lesser hazard on the end users, as well as the environment.
Applications of aluminium as an alternative
Over 127 countries in the world now regulate the use of plastic bags and aluminium is successfully bridging the gap. Predominantly replacing plastic in the packaging industry, aluminium can be found in our day to day lives. Aluminium foil is resilient to moisture, bacteria and light, thus, preserves food longer than plastic can. The demand for flat rolled aluminium is seeing a surge as consumers are adopting greener options of packaging. Aluminium cans and bottles too, are replacing plastic bottles. Its ability to be recycled and resist any external contaminants makes it ideal for preserving the contents inside and the environment outside. Plastic containers are slowly phasing out from kitchens and aluminium containers made from 8006 alloys have found their way in.
The road to sustainable development
Aluminium is one of the world’s most abundant metals and India is among the top 5 aluminium producing countries across the globe. With a rich reserve of the metal, India has further fuelled the demand for aluminium with its ‘Make in India’ initiative that is now attracting attention globally. India therefore has the potential to lead adoption of aluminium in various forms and pave the way for a sustainable world economy. With an estimated growth of 8% in the next 5 years, aluminium is expected to put India on the world map for being an environmentally responsible and sustainable country.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house