Alcoa has interests in many facets of the production and management of aluminum, and the same can be said for Alcoa and the environment.

The company’s eco-friendly interests are present throughout the major aspects of its aluminum operations: technology, mining, refining, smelting, fabricating, and recycling.

The company’s sustainability efforts in all areas of its operations are detailed in its sustainability report, on which the article is based.   The report details what Alcoa is doing for the environment as well as what it is doing for the health and safety of its employees, the contributions it is making to the communities in which it operates, and, of course, the sustainability of Alcoa’s economic standing.

Alcoa recognizes that while there is an increasing need for new infrastructure and consumer goods, the company has a responsibility to the planet’s fragile ecosystems. With EcoAlcoa, Alcoa has made a commitment to operate sustainably in the communities and ecosystems in which it does business.

Since Alcoa is in the aluminum business, the company naturally is in the recycling business. In 1978, the Alcoa Recycling Company was established to “to help the public understand how important it is to recycle, and to make it easier to do so.” Aluminum is easy to recycle and can be recycled over and over. The company recognizes that the need for recycling today is greater than ever since making aluminum from existing aluminum has a fraction of the carbon footprint that making aluminum from raw ore has. Alcoa engineers its aluminum beverage cans to be 100% recyclable.

Recently, a $24 million expansion was added to the Tennessee recycling facility. The environmentally friendly Alcoa facility is now capable of increasing its recycling capacity by 50 percent. This increase will help Alcoa reach its goal of having 75 percent of the aluminum in the North America recycled by 2015.   Alcoa’s commitment goes beyond recycling to combating climate change. Alcoa is a founding member of the United States Climate Action Partnership and a member of the Global Roundtable on Climate Change. In Brazil and Australia, Alcoa has also partnered with climate change organizations because their commitment is a global one.

Recognizing that conventional energy use is a major contributing factor to climate change, the company is actively increasing its supply of cost-effective renewable resources. Alcoa’s North American hydro facilities generate more than 5.4 billion kilowatt hours for Alcoa operations. Other efforts the company makes in reducing its energy use impact are purchasing electricity generated from landfill gas and purchasing renewable energy certificates (RECs) equivalent to 100 percent of the electricity used annually at four corporate offices. Looking forward, Alcoa is investigating the use of geothermal power in its Iceland facility.

Alcoa realizes that the lighter and stronger its aluminum products and systems are, the more eco-friendly Alcoa’s products will be. Its aluminum products and systems can be found in the “green” headquarters of Heifer International and these products contributed to the building’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

Alcoa is also partnering with Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China. Together the two companies are exploring technology solutions for China’s large passenger jet, the C919. A lighter, but still strong, jet will be more fuel efficient.   Another of Alcoa’s environmentally friendly partners is the Earthwatch Institute. Volunteers from Alcoa work side by side with scientists from Earthwatch. The research they do contributes to finding solutions for some of today’s biggest sustainability problems.

Finally, Alcoa is committed to restoring the land from which it mines the ore that contains aluminum oxide. The company surface mines this ore from Australia, Brazil, Suriname, Jamaica and other parts of the world. Alcoa takes its responsibility of restoring the land to its former state when the mining is done seriously. The company has a plan for rehabilitation of mined land. The goal of rehabilitation of a site is to return the land “to a stable condition that will not deteriorate substantially but will be consistent with the aesthetic, environmental, economic, and social values of the surrounding.”

For more information on Alcoa and the environment, check out the sustainability section of the company’s Web site.