Closed recycling loop reduces need for raw material and energy

Volkswagen Slovakia sends high-quality aluminium offcuts for re-processing.

The press shop in Volkswagen Slovakia in Bratislava.The press shop in Volkswagen Slovakia in Bratislava. (Source: Courtesy of Volkswagen Slovakia)

When a stamping press cuts and models the sides or roofs of a future SUV out of high-quality aluminium sheets at the biggest automotive plant in Slovakia, the offcuts are sent to a supplier that uses them to produce new sheets.

Volkswagen Slovakia thus saves precious primary raw material and its cars enter the usability phase with greater environmental balance.

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The Aluminium Closed Loop project, launched in 2021 in Bratislava, is an example of a circular economy in practice, reducing the energy-intensive production of primary aluminium.

“Using recycled materials to produce the aluminium from which car bodies are made minimises the high energy requirements in the phase before actual vehicle production,” said Michaela Hletková Ploszeková, head of the environment department at Volkswagen Slovakia. This is one way the plant reduces the overall environmental balance of the vehicles it produces, she added.

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Since the launch of the project in July 2021, the carmaker has sent 6,600 tons of high-quality aluminium offcuts for re-processing. The use of secondary aluminium enables energy savings of up to 95 percent compared to the production of primary aluminium. The production of CO2 emissions is reduced as well.

Using the offcuts to produce new sheets minimises the amount of raw materials, in this case bauxite, Hletková Ploszeková noted.

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Volkswagen Slovakia opened its €90 million press shop in Bratislava in late 2013. It was one of the most advanced press shops in Europe and its press (91,000 kN) is one of the strongest in the Volkswagen Group. It presses 74 components from aluminium as well as steel sheets for SUV models produced in Bratislava – the Volkswagen Touareg, Audi Q7, Audi Q8, Porsche Cayenne a Porsche Cayenne Coupé. The high usage ratio of aluminium, as much as 96 percent, has made it a suitable place to introduce the Aluminium Closed Loop project.

The Aluminium Closed Loop was first established at the Neckarsulm site in 2017 and then gradually introduced in the Audi in Ingolstadt in 2020 and afterwards in Bratislava.

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