Speira builds aluminium recycling furnace at Rheinwerk

The direction has been set for a long time: ‘We want to become the number 1 in aluminium recycling in Europe,’ explains Boris Kurth, Head of the can business at Speira as well as the recycling and foundry operations at the Rheinwerk. ‘Over the past 20 years, we have already built furnaces with leading recycling capacity in Europe and Europe’s most modern sorting plant for UBC scrap, substituting the highly energy-intensive primary production of aluminium. We are consistently pursuing this path and emphasising our commitment to the circular economy with the fourth recycling furnace at Rheinwerk.’

The furnace will be built in 2025. Production is scheduled to start at the beginning of 2026. Speira is also converting the third of four existing casting centres to be optimised for recycling alloys. This will enable Rheinwerk to further reduce its ecological footprint. Overall, Rheinwerk will then have a recycling capacity that will save up to 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 compared to primary production of the same quantity of aluminium.

Step by step to Europe’s ‘recycling hub’

The new furnace and the remodelling of the casting plant are step one that will be followed by others. ‘With its strategic location in the heart of Europe, we are expanding Rheinwerk into a leading recycling hub for our industry, which is our long-term goal for our complete transformation,’ explains Kurth.

New use for parts of the old smelter site

One third of the phased-out smelter will be home to the new scrap warehouse. This will provide storage space and facilities for sampling incoming scrap and preparing it for melting. ‘The long halls allow us to think and plan big. This huge new scrap warehouse creates space for the ‘feed’ for all of our recycling furnaces – not just the new one,’ says Kurth happily. ‘We need the sampling of those types of scrap that have already completed one or more life cycles. These ‘post-consumer scraps’ are a source that we want to utilise even more.’ The storage areas for skimmings are also being expanded in the foundry.

Focus on fast can

The new recycling furnace will be used to melt aluminium alloys that are processed into beverage cans after rolling. Speira can demonstrate its sustainability ambitions particularly well in this market. This is because the beverage can is a very fast-moving product; the life cycle from production to filling, retail sale, consumption by the end consumer, disposal and recycling only takes around 60 days.

This means that the same aluminium passes through Speira’s recycling facilities many times a year and the ecological advantage of state-of-the-art technology can be used particularly often and particularly efficiently. Speira is therefore also committed to further improving the recyclability of beverage cans: Coordinated by European Aluminium, the company researches recycling-friendly alloys together with other manufacturers and promotes return deposit schemes for the valuable light metal.

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