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Aluminium foil, a last resort

Aluminium is a widely used material in the food industry: beverage and food cans, transport trays, disposable moulds and, of course, foil, which is ubiquitous in all kitchens.

Aluminium foil is a light and extremely malleable material, electrically conductive, easy to cut and a good thermal insulator. Its affordability and ease of use have made it a popular item, and it has replaced other more environmentally friendly materials.

Aluminium is found in the mineral bauxite and is the most abundant metallic element in the earth’s crust, accounting for 8%, but its extraction and manufacturing have significant environmental impacts. The manufacturing process is energy and resource intensive: up to 15,000 kW/h and 5 tonnes of bauxite for every tonne of aluminium.

Aluminium recycling is cost-effective, since aluminium waste can be melted down and the resulting material can be used again to make laminate of the same quality. However, the whole industrial process linked to the aluminium foil manufacturing cycle is environmentally costly. For domestic uses there are alternatives made of other materials (multi-purpose plastic containers, paper, cloth wrapping, etc.), which can help reduce the consumption of aluminium foil. If in the end we decide that it has to be used, after it should be thrown into the yellow bin for easy recycling.