In 1884 the construction of the Washington monument was completed with a six pound aluminum pyramid as its crown jewel. Although aluminum is the third most abundant element on earth (after oxygen and silicon) in 1884 it was less common than platinum. Today we extract aluminum oxide from Bauxite ore and convert it to pure aluminum by electrolysis. This extremely energy intensive process was not invented until 1886.
(An in depth history of aluminum production)
Why is this important?
“Aluminium can be recycled over and over again without loss of properties. The high value of aluminium scrap is a key incentive and major economic impetus for recycling. Aluminium recycling benefits present and future generations by conserving energy and other natural resources. It saves up to 95% of the energy required for primary aluminium production, thereby avoiding corresponding emissions, including greenhouse gases.”
The aluminum recycling process:
With a superior strength to weight ratio aluminum is a valuable part of our present day life. The life cycle of aluminum is similar to other nonferrous metals with an initial mining and refining process bringing it to virtually a closed loop existence. Due to its wide use and recyclability, aluminum has acted as a model for many post industrial and consumer recycling programs.