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Based on international industry statistics, the most straightforward way to classify sources of scrap aluminum is in relation to the products in which the aluminum was used prior to becoming waste.  The primary sources of aluminum scrap metal fall into 5 basic categories: automobiles, trucks and vehicles; metal building products used for construction; electric wiring and cables; electrical and electronic products; and packaging materials.  Needless to say, these scrap categories are fundamental to the viability of a scrap collector and equally so to the scrap yard. 

Automobiles, trucks and vehicles 

The auto industry is known to be the largest user of aluminum, and as a result, probably the largest source of aluminum wastes.  At the end of its “life”, a car is usually collected and disassembled, and each year it’s estimated that tens of millions of “end-of-life” vehicles are discarded.  Primarily comprised of metal, cars (and trucks and buses) contain significant amounts of aluminum - amounts that are valuable enough to be mechanically separated and eventually recycled into aluminum that is as good as virgin aluminum. 

Building and construction products

In countries where the auto industry doesn’t dominate the market (like western nations), the building and construction segment has become the largest consumer of aluminum.  Beyond the standard, conventional building materials aluminum is used in roofing, window and doorframes, window shutters, and door handles.  Industry stats estimate that during the process of building deconstruction/demolition, over 90% of the waste aluminum is salvaged, properly separated, and finally sent directly to a recycling facility for processing.

Electrical and electronic products

Electrical and electronic equipment (known throughout the industry as EEE) includes a host of articles:  fridges, wash machines, stoves; small appliances like toasters and hair dryers; computers, cell phones, and calculators; radios, televisions, stereos; electric tools and sports equipment; even smoke detectors and thermostats.  It’s bad news, but our personal domestic waste is currently enormous, and increasing by close to 5% each year.  It’s easy, therefore, to estimate the very high and ever-growing amounts of aluminum scrap that is generated form e-waste.

Electric wiring and cables

When factories, buildings and manufacturing facilities are retrofitted, renovated, or just plain demolished, scrap of all kinds is generated.  And although detailed scrap statistics are hard to determine, it’s known that wires and cables generate millions of tons of scrap metal.  We know that most of the scrap metal is copper-laden, but when it comes to the high voltage power cables, these use aluminum as the primary conducting metal.  Once again, these are significant sources of waste aluminum, and valuable enough to be appropriately separated, processed and used in remanufacturing.  

Aluminum packaging materials

Conventional aluminum packaging is also a substantial contributor to scrap. It’s actually surprising how much aluminum is used in domestic product packaging, even without including canned goods. The good news is that this category has a very high collection rate in many industrialized nations, and in some cases it can be as high as 90%. This is especially true in some of the western European countries, where beverage cans (like beer and soda pop) make the biggest contribution.

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