When considering the ecological and social implications of using metal, its non-renewable nature is the main concern. Metal cannot be grown and is a finite resource - there is only a certain amount within the Earth’s crust.
To create aluminium, the ore bauxite is mined as it contains aluminium hydroxide minerals. The bauxite is purified so that aluminium oxide is produced, and the aluminium is extracted from this through electrolysis. Huge amounts of energy are used to extract aluminium and convert it into a usable material. Recycling it requires some energy to make it usable again, but nowhere near as much.
Whenever environmental impact is being reduced, ‘The 6 Rs’ can be called on to ensure an in-depth analysis has been done. The 6 Rs can be considered by the designer, the manufacturer and the customer.
The term ‘the 6 Rs’ can be applied to the design of new products or when a product is finished with, used up or no longer wanted. Here are some questions to prompt 6 Rs thinking: