Life Cycle Assessment of Aluminium Beverage Cans

Posted by camille rozanes
Type: 
Full LCA available on the web
Comparative: 
yes
Publication year: 
2010
Language: 
English
Code: 
Package/Container (not paper specific)
Product: 
cans
Quality and sources
Is the study a: 
Detailed LCA
Was a critical review performed?: 
No
Is the study compliant with ISO 14044?: 
Yes
Sponsor name(s): 
Aluminium Association Inc
Sponsor type: 
Union, Federation
Practitioner(s): 
PE Americas
Practitioner(s): 
PE International
Practitioner(s): 
Five Winds International
Practitioner(s) type: 
Consultant
Summary
Functional unit: 
to produce one thousand aluminum beverage cans
Goal and scope of the summary: 
The goal of this LCA study is to provide the Aluminum Association, the aluminum industry stakeholders, and the LCA practitioners with up‐to‐date LCI data for beverage cans. The present update of the beverage can LCI is intended to be used for comparative asser‐ tions to be disclosed to the public, and is therefore subject to external critical review according to ISO 14044 guidelines. The scope of the study comprises a “cradle‐to‐grave” LCI, starting with the extraction of the bauxite ore at the mine, including the production of aluminum ingot and the manufacturing of the aluminum beverage can, and ending after the recovery and recycling of the UBC.

This study quantifies all the significant inputs and outputs to the beverage can system under two approaches to modeling end‐of‐life impacts: closed loop and recycled content. The system boundary of this life cycle assessment for beverage cans includes primary aluminum production, secondary aluminum production; aluminum can sheet production, can manufacturing, and recycling of UBC.

Information on the primary energy demand for primary aluminum production in North America shows that 67% comes from non‐renewable resources. Electrolysis accounts for 80% of the total energy demand for primary production. It is estimated that 11.1 metric tons of CO2 are emitted per ton of primary aluminum ingot produced of which 8.7 tons (78%)are from the electrolysis proc‐ ess alone.

 The electrolysis process during primary aluminum production in the U.S. consumes approximately two‐ thirds of its electricity demand from hydropower.  However, on account of the lower energy conversion efficiency of fossil fuel‐based power generation, the renewable fraction of total primary energy demand is lower than the non‐renewable fraction. 

A further analysis of green‐ house gas (GHG) emissions was done following the guidelines in the GHG Protocol (WRI and WBCSD). Scopes 1 and 2 (direct GHG emissions and indirect GHG emissions attributable to energy conversion processes) together contribute to 9,847 kg. CO2 equivalents emitted per ton of primary aluminum produced while Scope 3 (further GHG emissions from the supply chain) adds another 1,221 kg. CO2 equivalents to these emissions.

Concerning the end‐of‐life considerations, the results of the study indicate that the raw ma‐ terial extraction and processing represent 67% of the total primary energy demand (1943 MJ per 1000 cans) under a closed loop approach, with production of the primary aluminum ingot alone accounting for 46% of net primary energy demand, and production of the secondary aluminum ingot accounting for 8% of net primary energy demand. Under the recycled con‐ tent system model, the contribution of raw material acquisition to total primary energy demand (1692 MJ per 1000 cans) decreases slightly to 62%. This is due to the net “burden” which is given to deficit UBC scrap in the closed loop system model.

Material impact(s): 
Acidification
Ozone layer depletion
Global warming
Eutrophication
Smog
Raw material impact level: 
Medium
Manufacturing impact(s): 
Ozone layer depletion
Eutrophication
Toxicity / Eco-toxicity
Manufacturing impact level: 
Medium
End of life impact(s): 
Acidification
Global warming
Eutrophication
End of life impact level: 
Low
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