The Sustainability Challenge

The twenty first century began with almost 7 billion people on the planet and global population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2100.

The sustainability challenge shared by all is to provide not only for these people’s basic needs, but to meet expectations for an improving quality of life. Crucially, this socio-economic progress must be achieved while ensuring the environment remains ecologically and economically viable and able to meet the needs of future generations. The products of human ingenuity, including the versatile metal aluminium in its many applications, have a vital role to play in successfully addressing this sustainability challenge.

By working continuously to minimize its environmental impacts and maximize the benefits that its products offer to the world, the aluminium industry is committed to ensuring that aluminium is part of the solution for a sustainable future.

The International Aluminium Institute (IAI), the global association of aluminium producers, has developed the “The Aluminium Story” as a way to communicate the performance of the industry in improving its production processes and to demonstrate the benefits of aluminium products in use and through recycling. The Aluminium Story suite of websites were realised by interstruct, a leading Berlin-based design agency, which has specialized on producing highly attractive and user-friendly web presentations for companies and institution primarily from the technology sector.

The Aluminium Story

The Aluminium Story website (www.thealuminiumstory.com) itself is a portal webpage that provides easy access into the world of aluminium. It includes three dynamic animations that explore the key elements of the story – production and the industry’s performance in reducing its impacts; use of aluminium products and the positive social, economic and environmental benefits they have the potential to deliver; and the value retention potential of recycling at end of life. The portal also links to a number of sub-sites that go into greater detail on these elements.

The slogan “Almost Infinite” evokes the strong recycling potential of aluminium and its role in terms of a sustainable resource management for the benefit of future generations. The logo was developed by interstruct and is based on the shape of a “torus”. As a twisted, three-dimensional “infinite” band with a metallic look and feel, it symbolises the theoretically endless reusability of aluminium.

The Campaign Sites

The “Aluminium Production” and “Bauxite & Alumina” sites are dedicated to the topic of aluminium production and processing as well as the impacts and benefits to local communities. Three central processes (and respective technical procedures) are explained step by step with the help of illustrations and short texts, along with detailed life cycle data. Citations plus images of important representatives of the aluminium industry are used to introduce extensive material.

The site entitled “Aluminium in Building” was conceived as a way of communicating the benefits of aluminium building and construction applications to architects and specifiers, who might be unaware of the environmental and economic benefits that could be delivered through their buildings by designing with aluminium, if their focus was solely on the production impacts of the material relative to competing materials. It has a clear layout, high-quality images and a dynamic look & feel. The benefits of aluminium as a building material are highlighted on the homepage, complemented by testimonials of globally renowned architects.

Based on the design concept of the “Aluminium in Building” web page, “Aluminium in Transport” features a highly innovative tool developed by Interstruct, based on IAI data and modelling: The “Transport Light-Weighting Model” enables users to individually calculate savings in terms of energy and green house gas emissions resulting from the use of aluminium in transport applications.

Various forms of aluminium packaging are displayed within a type of showroom on the starting page of the “Aluminium in Packaging” campaign. Unlike the transport and building sites, the focus of packaging is more on retailers and consumers than customers and thus it has a more “supermarket-shelf” look and feel. The role of aluminium as a protective, lightweight barrier material is explored and lifecycle information heavily promoted; quantifying the use phase benefits of aluminium which, while having a high environmental footprint per gram compared to other materials, has improved protection potential, lighter weight for transportation and high design potential.The recyclability and real world recycling rates for packaging applications are also presented and broad information on the wide range of packaging types that benefit from aluminium use – including multi-material solutions.

Built around the IAI’s mass flow model, the “Aluminium Recycling” site demonstrates both the benefits and challenges to aluminium recycling, exploring specificities of collection schemes through regional case studies and delivering data on recycling rates per market segment. The limits of recycling to meet demand are also explored through an animated version of the mass flow model, illustrating the importance of product lifetimes and the fact that the majority of aluminium produced is still doing its work, locked in products currently in use until they reach the end of their useful life, which can be 50 years or more. Clear information in combination with the elaborate “Mass Flow Model” animation communicate the complex flows of material in use and at end of life.

The sites are currently presented in English and Chinese, with French versions of the transport and building sites.