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Aluminum is forever

Posted by Marija Plavcic on
Aluminij je zauvijek

You won't get much benefit from using natural beauty products if they are packed in packaging that reacts chemically with the product. This is because there is a chemical migration of harmful compounds (most often polymer, various polymer softeners and the like) into the product itself, which becomes potentially harmful to your health. Therefore, taking care of adequate ecological packaging, which is equally good for you and the environment, is as important as the product itself.

Aluminum is a more popular ecological packaging material due to its many advantages - low density (weight), easy to form, resistant to corrosion and various fats and liquids, good mechanical and chemical properties. In addition, perhaps most importantly, aluminum can be recycled an infinite number of times, without losing its quality or primary purpose (recycling produces the same product). We could therefore say that the shelf life of aluminum is forever. That is why Sapunoteka's natural products such as lotions and scrubs , hand or face creams are in aluminum packaging.

Application of aluminum and its advantages

Aluminum is found in the Earth's crust (about 8%), where, along with iron, it is more present than all other metals combined. It is also the third most widespread element, after oxygen and silicon. However, aluminum is not present in nature in its elemental state, but as aluminum oxide or alumina, and is found in bauxite ores. Pure aluminum - a metal with a recognizable silver-white color - is obtained only by converting bauxite through various processes and reactions.

The good durability of aluminum as a material is due to its rapid reaction with air (oxidation), during which a surface protective layer of high density is created. This protective layer protects the metal from further oxidation, allows it not to corrode, protects against moisture and air, and does not peel off. This is precisely the reason why it is so acceptable in food, beverage, drug and cosmetic packaging. While in the case of plastic packaging, which, in addition to the seven most common polymers, consists of various additives (such as stabilizers and softeners) that migrate into the contents, the product does not react in case of contact with aluminum packaging. In addition, aluminum has a good ability to combine with other metals, forming alloys or alloys that have other better properties than pure aluminum (low density, considerable strength, etc.), so its application is widespread in other branches of industry. The aviation industry, shipbuilding, construction, automotive, electric power (transmission lines), and even space are some of them.

Better degradability of aluminum compared to other materials

Aluminum is not biodegradable, just like plastic and glass, but it is an environmentally acceptable solution even if it is found in nature in the form of waste, because only harmless aluminum oxides are formed, which are naturally present in our environment anyway. Plastic products decompose for a minimum of 500 years and more, because they cannot be decomposed biologically, because petroleum derivatives (from which plastic is made) are not completely biodegradable, chemicals remain in the soil, and there is also the problem of increasingly present microplastics, which end up in a circular economic process and in our organism. It takes one to two million years for glass cups to decompose, i.e. to return to their natural form, while aluminum cans take slightly less time, i.e. about 200 years.

The possibility of eternal recycling of aluminum without loss of quality

As bauxite, as an ore from which aluminum is obtained, is still found in nature in limited quantities, the production of aluminum depletes its natural resources. A better solution is therefore the recycling of this metal, because in this way we save the Earth's natural resources, but also reduce the effect of greenhouse gases, and greatly save other energy sources and production costs. By recycling aluminum, we save up to 95% of the energy normally required to produce new aluminum, which is a greater saving than when other metals such as iron, steel, copper, lead and zinc are recycled. In doing so, electricity consumption is reduced by up to 75%, harmful gases by up to 86% and water pollution by up to 76%, and the use of water itself is reduced by 40%.

Applicable to household consumption, we can say that recycling one aluminum can saves enough electricity to watch television for three hours. Even one bicycle can be made from a total of 500 recycled aluminum cans. And how good its usability is, is shown by the fact that recycling one ton of old cans yields 0.9 tons of new cans.

On the other hand, plastic is almost unprofitable to recycle. Care must be taken to mix only the same polymers, of the same color and properties. Plastic can be recycled only one or two times so that it does not lose as much quality, that is, a maximum of seven times (often only a secondary or tertiary product is obtained, never the original). Glass can be recycled countless times, just like aluminum, but there is another problem with it - glasses of different colors must not be mixed. Also, when glass is recycled, less electricity is saved and air and water pollution is reduced less than with aluminum. Glass is also much heavier, so it is more difficult to transport and thus increases the costs of the entire production process.

(Harmful) aluminum salts should be distinguished from pure aluminum

We have already mentioned that aluminum easily combines with other elements, among which aluminum salts can be formed, which today experts say are harmful to health. They can cause rashes, skin irritation, hypersensitivity of the immune system, breast cancer and Alzheimer's disease. However, it should be emphasized that pure aluminum is not the same as aluminum salts. Aluminum salts are compounds of aluminum with other elements that can produce neurotoxins. Some of these salts are combinations of aluminum with chlorine, hydrogen and oxygen (aluminum chloride), only with chlorine (aluminum chloride) or with zirconium, oxygen, hydrogen and chlorine (aluminum zirconium) and various other compounds. Compounds of these salts can be found in deodorants, sun protection products, make-up products, and medicines. So, these compounds are present everywhere and as soon as they accumulate to a greater extent, they harm health. However, there is no such fear for pure aluminum, which, thanks to the protective oxide layer, is non-reactive, does not release ions or microparticles.

Aluminum therefore remains an environmentally friendly material that lasts forever.

P. Š. and MP

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