Aluminum recycling, an opportunity in Bogota

Although aluminum can be reused many times without losing its original properties or characteristics, in Bogotá, Colombia, 3.29 tons of this material is buried without use every day.

Given this situation, researchers from the National University of Colombia (UN) analyzed the city’s recycling model to determine how the process works, from generators and collectors to transformers, responsible for producing finished products.

Part of Bogotá’s metallurgical industry, mostly small smelters, have little knowledge of the separation process

“We found that the city has an informal recycling chain with many links and little regulation, which has led to little achievement in the use of aluminum, compared to other capitals in the world,” explains Federico Millán, one of the researchers, a master’s student. Engineering – Materials and processes from the UN

The first problem identified is the recycling chain in Bogotá, which consists of too many links (sources for production, recuperators, collectors and transporters, collectors, pre-transformers, transformers) that make the material more expensive for the industry.

“Our proposal is to reduce the number of links in the recycling chain, since the only suppliers of usable material for the industry should be professional recyclers,” says the student.

Furthermore, in the case of Bogotá, metal waste is traditionally considered garbage, which is why it is dumped in landfills, and its usefulness is neglected.

“Part of Bogotá’s metallurgical industry, mostly small smelters, have little knowledge of the separation process. While in other countries waste is sorted according to alloy and origin, in this city waste is mixed to produce products without impurity control,” adds the student.

Faced with this, researchers propose the implementation of a waste separation and classification process in order to eliminate the impurities that aluminum can bring, such as plastic or ferrous metals, and thus obtain a metal of similar quality to the primary one.

Furthermore, if recycling processes are optimized, the environmental impact caused by the extraction of this metal is also reduced. “Soil destruction is one of the most obvious environmental impacts of aluminum production, as it involves the deforestation of thousands of hectares. There is also the emission of gases during the conversion of bauxite into alumina and the increase of carbon in the atmosphere,” he adds.

But in addition to being an environmentally friendly activity, recycling this metal is an opportunity for economic development and environmental sustainability for Bogotá.

Primary aluminum is obtained from a mineral called bauxite, a very rare metal in Colombia and generally imported; Therefore, 100% utilization of this material would be a saving advantage for the country.

“If the reuse of metals is increased, the dependence on external markets is reduced, as well as the cost of production because energy consumption and the amount of raw materials are reduced,” concludes the researcher.

Fountain. National University of Colombia

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