The world celebrates Earth Day on April 22.
At Constellium, we believe our planet could use some love every day of the year, and we are constantly looking for new ways to take better care of the environment. All of our sites contribute to our environmental efforts with thoughtful and innovative ways to green their operations.
Ruling the recycling bin
Constellium recycles a lot of aluminium. Our plant at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, boasts one of the largest and most efficient can recycling facilities in the world, capable of recycling nearly one-fifth of all cans sold in the U.S. Our other plants in Neuf-Brisach and Issoire (France), Děčín (Czech Republic), and Valais (Switzerland) have major recycling capabilities for scrap from different applications, everything from automotive to aerospace. We also work to boost general recycling rates, knowing that aluminium is the most valuable material in the recycling bin. We believe that every aluminium can produced should be recycled, and we collaborate with our partners in Europe and the U.S. to increase scrap collection rates, do better sorting, and create more efficient closed recycling loops. We constantly improve our own recycling processes, including developing more scrap-tolerant alloys.
Constellium recycles more than 80% of our waste, and we steadily reduce the amount we send to landfill through data collection, better waste segregation, and teamwork. Until recently, Muscle Shoals (which we acquired in January 2015) produced more than 60% of all Constellium’s worldwide waste. In 2018, the plant brought in a new Environmental Manager, Benjamin Yancey, and gave him and his team the freedom to make important changes.
One big obstacle was that it is more expensive to recycle than to landfill in Muscle Shoals, notably due to transportation costs—sometimes the plant had to send waste four states away to recycle it. Muscle Shoals now sends its wood pallets to a local company that shreds them and turns them into pellets for heat, works with a company in Tennessee that refines waste oil, and has a local firm that crushes refractory brick and mixes it with aggregate for road bed. The plant even found ways to recycle flue gas. It was equally important to change the culture on the shop floor. “Recycling in the city has only been around 5-10 years,” Yancey says, “so to ask a facility of 1,200 individuals to start recycling, when they’ve never thought about it in their personal lives, was a challenge.” They put up hundreds of posters showing how to segregate waste, held multiple training sessions and competitions, and installed color-coded recycling bins. And it worked! Muscle Shoals achieved a 60% reduction in landfilled plant trash in 2020, despite a 10% increase in production.
In the fight against climate change, we have committed to cut our Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 25% in 2025 versus 2015, per ton of aluminium sold. (Scope 1 and 2 emissions are direct and indirect emissions from sources that we own or control). We reduce our GHG emissions with energy efficiency programs and continuous improvement in our manufacturing processes and equipment. Our site in Neuf-Brisach, France, recently replaced heavy fuel oil with natural gas in our last furnace still using this polluting fuel. This substitution will create an annual net GHG emissions reduction of about 3,500 t CO2 eq. We also received acknowledgement for the efforts of our Bowling Green (U.S.) facility in 2020. The Tennessee Valley Authority gave the plant two awards, for “Lowest Carbon Emissions” and “Most Improved Carbon Emissions,” recognizing Bowling Green’s success in decreasing its power consumption.
Turning off the faucet
Constellium uses water mostly in our cooling operations, during metal casting and rolling. Last year, our Issoire site did an exceptional job of cutting its water consumption in half. Some of the reduction was due to a decline in production that resulted from the pandemic, but beyond that, the plant improved its operations for real, lasting results. It hunted for leaks, started tracking water consumption monthly, and modified the casthouse cooling circuit to a closed loop system. At the same time, Issoire improved its water circuit management to minimize suspended solids in discharged water.You will find more information on our sustainability initiatives in our 2020 Business and Sustainability report.