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Tomago to recycle aluminium in new partnership

April 6, 2022

Australians have a proud tradition of collecting our used aluminium for recycling, but until now most of it has been sent offshore for reprocessing.

That meant local jobs went begging while our energy-hungry smelters were forced to turn out virgin metal from scratch.

But that is about to change with news that a major aluminium user has struck a recycling deal to provide feedstock to Australia’s biggest smelter, Tomago Aluminium in the NSW Hunter Valley.

Capral Aluminium is Australia’s largest producer and distributor of aluminium products, with facilities around Australia extruding aluminium for use in a range of industrial, manufacturing and construction applications.

Capral has just signed a deal to supply about 550 tonnes of production scrap to Tomago for remelting each year.

Scrap from Capral’s Penrith, NSW, extrusion plant will be baled and sent to Tomago to be remelted and added to new aluminium products.

“This is great news for Tomago Aluminium workers and points the way for other industries,” AWU NSW Branch Secretary Tony Callinan says.

“This will help keep good jobs in Australia, not see them lost overseas.

“Until now more than 95 per cent of Australia’s scrap aluminium has been sent overseas for recycling.

“In 2020 Australian exporters sent 119,075 tonnes of aluminium overseas, and that meant hundreds of Australian job opportunities went overseas too.”

The arrangement is the first of its kind in Australia, paving the way toward access to low-carbon aluminium for Australian manufacturers.

Aluminium can be recycled almost infinitely, making it an incredibly sustainable material.

Until now aluminium smelters have had limited capacity for remelt, due to safety and contamination risks, but Capral has worked with Tomago to ensure it provides scrap that can be successfully and safely remelted.

Recycling aluminium requires up to 95 per cent less energy than raw production from ore, avoiding emissions, including greenhouse gases.

With Tomago Aluminium using about 10 per cent of NSW’s power supply to produce 590,000 tonnes of aluminium per year, cutting energy costs is critical.

“Australia’s aluminium makers run 24/7 and largely rely on coal-fired electricity to power the process,” Mr Callinan says.

“But as we transition away from coal we are still seeing soaring energy costs and environmental concerns that have put all our manufacturing industries under huge pressure.

“And in recent years Tomago has been hit with hours of interruptions due to ‘price volatility’ linked with outages at two power plants and wind droughts.

“Recycling aluminium on this scale should help insulate Tomago from some of the problems plaguing the power market, and in the process protect Aussie jobs.”

Recycling even has national security implications.

“With global supply chains experiencing significant disruption, these new arrangements mean much of the metal we need will not have to rely on international shipping through congested ports,” Mr Callinan says.

“A vital product – aluminium – that is made in NSW will now be recycled in NSW.”

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