Do you have a large pile of empty aluminium drinks cans nearby? At this time of year you probably do. And they’re more precious than you might imagine.
At the launch of the current-model Jaguar XJ, I was told the body contained around 235kg of aluminium, but only ‘around 50 per cent’ was recycled. Aluminium drinks cans are ideal for recycling, partly because they made of pure aluminium, but they’re hard to obtain in big quantities, according to JLR engineers.
The UK may well be putting well over a billion cans per year into landfill, madness in terms of reducing energy use. According to BMW, using recycled aluminium emits just 2kg of Co2 per kilo as opposed to 10kg for fresh production. By my maths, there’s around 14 grams of ally in a standard issue drinks can, so Jaguar XJ only needs around 17,000 cans (suitably melted down and upgraded to 6000-series grade with a few alloying elements) to build one new XJ.
If, by the end of the decade, JLR is making 300,000 aluminium cars with an average bodyweight of 270kg the company would need to buy over 82 million tonnes of aluminium. That’s around one billion cans, rather more than the 5 billion cans sold in the UK each year, but an entirely re-cycled range of cars is not impossible.
Perhaps the idea is more applicable to the sometimes environmentally controversial Range Rover brand. I asked a senior Land Rover boss whether the company would consider making the next-generation 2013 Range Rover 4 entirely from re-cycled drinks cans. Or did he think such a move wouldn’t be considered ‘premium’ by customers? He grimaced at the conundrum.
Last year I pitched the idea of using re-cycled cans for the New Bus for London project (150,000 cans per bus) at the Mayor’s office, to some enthusiasm. Although Wrightbus say the production bus is already over 70 per cent recycled, the idea of it being made entirely from Londoners’ own waste cans – which would otherwise be binned – is compelling.
But what would be better than a hybrid Range Rover made entirely of re-cycled cans? That would turn most Greens red with fury.