By Pat Plunkert
Aluminum is the second most abundant metal element in the Earth's crust after silicon, yet it is a comparatively new industrial metal that has been produced in commercial quantities for slightly more than 100 years. Measured either in quantity or value, aluminum's use exceeds that of any other metal except iron, and it is important in virtually all segments of the world economy.
Although the United States continues to be the leading producer of primary aluminum metal in the world, its dominance in the industry has begun to wane. In 1960, the United States accounted for slightly more than 40% of the world's production. In 1990, the U.S. share of world production had decreased to 23%. Most of the restructuring of the world aluminum industry began in the late 1970's and continues to this day. Australia and Canada have emerged as major metal producers. Other countries entering the world market today are Brazil, China, Norway, Venezuela, and several countries in the Persian Gulf area.
Another factor that should be considered in analyzing the domestic aluminum industry is the growing importance of secondary aluminum to the domestic supply situation. Secondary aluminum is defined as aluminum recovered from both new and old purchased scrap. New scrap generated by fabrication of aluminum products may be either home scrap (sometimes called runaround scrap) or prompt industrial scrap. Home scrap is recycled within the company generating the scrap and consequently seldom enters the commercial secondary market. Prompt industrial scrap, however, is new scrap from a fabricator who does not choose to, or is not equipped to, recycle the scrap. This scrap then enters the secondary market. Old scrap is a product of obsolescence and becomes available to the secondary industry when consumer products have reached the end of their economic life and have been discarded. In 1960, 397,000 metric tons of aluminum was recovered from new and old scrap. In 1990, almost 2.4 million metric tons of aluminum was recovered from purchased scrap. More than half of this secondary aluminum was recovered from postconsumer, or old, scrap.
- Table 1.--Salient aluminum statistics
- Table 2.--U.S. primary aluminum metal production
- Table 3.--Aluminum price
- Table 4.--Aluminum supply-demand relationships
- Table 5.--Domestic secondary recovery of old and new aluminum scrap
- Table 6.--Production and shipments of secondary aluminum alloys by independent smelters in the United States
- Table 7.--Month-end U.S. inventories of aluminum ingot, mill products, and scrap
- Table 8.--U.S. receipts and consumption of purchased new and old aluminum scrap and sweated pig
- Table 9.--World primary aluminum smelter capacities at yearend
- Table 10.--World production of primary aluminum, by country