Anyone drinking a beverage from an aluminum can could very well be holding metal originally produced more than 100 years ago by someone’s great-great-grandfather.
That’s why Klaus Kleinfeld, Alcoa, Inc., president and CEO, said aluminum is the miracle metal: It can be infinitely recycled.
“It comes back 60 days later as a new can. That’s what makes it so good for the world,” Kleinfeld said. “Seventy-three percent of all aluminum ever produced is still in circulation. There is some metal produced by someone’s great-great-grandfather.”
Alcoa, Inc., on Friday, March 26, dedicated a $24 million expansion of its aluminum can recycling capacity at the company’s Tennessee Operations. The investment increases recycling capability by nearly 50 percent and helps secure more than 100 jobs at the facility.
“The aluminum can is the world’s most efficient package, largely because it can be recycled infinitely,” Kleinfeld said. “Today we are celebrating the successful completion of our expansion and another milestone in our drive to help increase recycling rates across North America. This investment is an example of our commitment to increasing recycling as well as to helping secure jobs here in the Tennessee community.
“In the U.S. alone, more than 46 billion cans were put into landfills last year,” said Kleinfeld. “If we could instead recycle about half of those lost cans, we could achieve our goal of a 75 percent recycling rate and save the emissions of two coal-fired power plants.”
Helmut Wieser, Alcoa, Inc., Global Rolled Products president, said that Alcoa, Inc., makes aluminum for aircraft, building and aluminum beverage cans.
“Aluminum is produced by thousands of Alcoans who are very dedicated. They carry a legacy close to 100 years,” he said. “Today, we are dedicating a major expansion of our ability to recycle aluminum.”
Kleinfeld and Wieser were in town at the Alcoa, Tennessee Operations to dedicate the reclamation expansion. Matt Kisber, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, also was on hand for the event, which attracted more than 100 people from throughout the community to the site.
The new Tennessee Operations Can Reclamation facility includes a new crusher and delacquering furnace and supporting building enclosures, utilities and environmental systems. These improvements will help increase capacity using state-of-the-art environmental and fuel-efficient technology as well as support future flexibility to process other scrap types.
The new facility is part of Alcoa, Inc., push to make the United States more focused on recycling.
Kleinfeld said there is room for improvements when it comes to Americans’ attitude about recycling because the recycling rate is only about 54 percent. “We saw quite a few countries with recycling rates that are much higher,” he said. “It’s not a very difficult thing to do. By 2015, we want to bring the United States up to 75 percent recycling rate.”
The company CEO said Alcoa, Inc., is teaming with the National Recycling Coalition to roll out 50,000 recycling bins for people to use.
Chris Jackson, Tennessee Operations manager, said recycling is nothing new to Alcoa, Inc. “Our expanded can recycling department will this year celebrate a 35th anniversary and is important to our operation,” he said.
There were already two delacquering furnaces and one crusher at the facility. The delacquering furnace takes the paint and impurities off the can.
“You can not recycle the can without doing that,” said Brian Newman, area coordinator for can reclamation.
Newman said the investment doubles the capacity. “We were crushing 600,000 pounds per eight hour shift. Now we have doubled that, and we can produce 1.2 million pounds of crushed cans in an 8-hour shift,” he said.
Dignitaries and community leaders were impressed as they toured the facility.
Kisber thanked the Alcoa executives for their confidence in the state of Tennessee and in Blount County and said the investment signifies an upgrade in the long-term viability of Tennessee operations. “When this facility is at full capacity, it employs up to 1,600 people and has a $3 billion impact,” he said.
Kisber said the improvements make the company’s operation more environmentally friendly. “Your commitment to green is directly aligned with Tennessee’s direction and goals,” he said.
State Sen. Doug Overbey said recycling is important, and he was happy to learn that 70 percent of aluminum metal made is being used again. “Over the long haul, this investment will have a tremendous effect on the environment,” the senator said. “As far as the economy of our county, recycling is critical to the long-term sustainability and viability of Alcoa.”
State Rep. Joe McCord said the investment creates a state-of-the-art facility. “They’re creating half their fuel by the lacquer they take off the cans,” he said.
Blount County Mayor Jerry Cunningham said the investment is phenomenal. “It’s awesome what it does for the economic dimension. What it means for the environment is that it keeps Tennessee as green as possible,” he said.
Alcoa City Manager Mark Johnson said the $24 million investment will have tremendous impact. “I think we felt the effect of their scaling back operations, so anytime you put money into an economy, it has a tremendous effect throughout the entire community,” he said.
Maryville City Manager Greg McClain said the investment is a major impact on the community. “It’s a continuation of the legacy that was started 97 years ago,” he said.
Charlene DeSha, executive director of Keep Blount Beautiful, said hearing Kleinfeld speak gave her good information. “When I speak to children at the landfill and tell them that cans they are using could be made from material 200 years ago, it gives new legs to our message,” DeSha said.