Scrap happy

The process of making aluminium is only as environmentally sound as the materials thrown into the smelting pot, so it’s important to make sure they’re “clean”. Gränges Americas have figured out a winning solution that is both planet-friendly and profitable.

With the growing demand for aluminium, production plants throughout the industry face pressure as secondary smelters to increase the amount of recycled materials used, while reducing the need for primary.

“So we asked ourselves, ‘How do we remain sustainable and grow our profits at the same time?’ ” says Bill Norden, East Casting Coordinator at the Huntingdon plant, who has worked for Gränges for 30 years.

We asked ourselves, ‘How do we remain sustainable and grow our profits at the same time?
- Bill Norden, East Casting Coordinator, Huntingdon

A combined team with representatives from Gränges’ US production plants in Huntingdon, Tennessee and Salisbury, North Carolina, came up with the answer: to increase the use of sound recyclable materials.

“At the Huntingdon site our goal is that 20 – 25 percent of our monthly purchased metal should be classified as recycled,” says Norden. Inspired by the goal of using 6 million pounds (over 2.7 million kilograms) of external recycled scrap metal per month in the casting process by the end of 2018, the whole US team joined forces in a determined effort to hit the target.

“You should take every new opportunity that comes along because it might not present itself again,” says Norden. “If you keep on striving, it’s shocking what you can achieve!” Bill Hitchcock, Casting Coordinator at the Salisbury facility, says:

“We have to be very careful about the scrap we use. It must be free of paint and lubricants to minimize emissions, and our analysts always screen for contaminants such as copper wire, steel and iron. Fortunately, we now have a purchasing agreement with an automotive parts manufacturer. Since we originally sold them the alloys that they are now supplying, we know the ‘pedigree’ of their scrap.”

Having already surpassed the goal, the teams in Huntingdon and Salisbury have now been commended for their efforts. The initiative won them the Gränges sustainability and safety award for 2018. Hitchcock finds it refreshing to be able to avoid buying primary aluminium because of all the energy consumed in processing it. “It’s important to make these changes. If we don’t, our competition will surpassus.”

Currently replacing a monthly average of 7.2 million pounds (well over 3 million kilograms) of primary aluminium with scrap, the team has had a dramatic impact. Besides reducing carbon emissions by around 425 tonnes a year, it has brought massive energy savings and boosted the overall financial performance significantly. These achievements would not have been possible without some impressive teamwork involving purchasers, delivery coordinators, scheduling staff, furnace operators and customer services, Norden points out.

“It’s good to involve everyone,” he says, “because you never know where the next idea will come from.”

Awards jury: Reduced environmental footprint

“Gränges Americas has managed to drastically increase the use of external scrap in casting at both Huntingdon and Salisbury. That has led to a reduction of CO2 emissions by approximately 425 tonnes per year, and is a good contribution to Gränges’ work to reduce its environmental footprint.”

Team members:

Huntingdon: Mike Eller, Chad Utley, Bill Norden, Randy Bell, Kyle Dillahunty, Brian Kelly and all furnace and caster operators.

Salisbury: Jason Joyner, Bill Hitchcock, Adnan Podzic, Kenny Kimbrell, Joe Evans and all furnace and caster operators. Mike Fox, Mark Lienhart, Matt Pelonero, John Stone.