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Cars reborn in new aluminium recycling scheme

29 November 2017 #Technology & Innovation #Technology and Innovation Articles

Jaguar Land Rover, the UK’s largest vehicle manufacturer, is expanding the use of recycled aluminium in its car bodies to cut waste and reduce carbon emissions.

The £2 million project, called REALITY (Recycled Aluminium through Innovative Technology) has set a target to enable the closed-loop recycling of aluminium from vehicles at the end of their life, back into high-performance product forms for new vehicle body manufacture in the UK by Jaguar Land Rover.

The 34-month project enables the development and industrial deployment of sensor-based scrap sorting technologies. It is to separate wrought and cast alloys, and then to further separate wrought alloys into alloy types for the first time in high volume.

Full-scale recycled scrap based sheet and castings will be produced and evaluated. End-of-Life vehicles will be shredded and automatically sorted using state of the art sensing and sorting technologies. The recovered wrought and cast scrap will be alloyed, then supplied for either coil production or commercial scale shape casting production by high-pressure vacuum die casting with melt conditioning to remove or tolerate impurities.

Materials evaluation and characterisation will then be carried out on both the resultant sheet and cast product forms. Cost effective automated separation processes for shredder scrap will enable the closed-loop recycling of End-of-Life vehicles, providing significant CO2 savings (due to their being less, or no primary metal) and major cost savings.

Innovations in the sorting and separating technologies applied to automotive end-of-life waste streams will also help other sectors, including packaging and construction. It is driving a new culture to further develop the circular economy model to deliver both financial and environmental benefits by treating waste material as a high-value commodity. Quality will remain paramount, and the project will evaluate aluminium grades at a chemical and microstructure level to increase tolerance to recycling.

Resource recovery specialist Axion has joined the project to develop the sorting technologies for the recovery of high grade recycled aluminium. The project partners are Jaguar Land Rover, Axion Recycling, Novelis, Norton Aluminium, Brunel University London, WMG University of Warwick, Innoval Technology and Innovate UK.


REALITY builds on the REALCAR (REcycled ALuminium CAR) and REALCAR 2 projects allowing tens of thousands of tonnes of aluminium generated in the manufacturing process to be recycled and reused in a closed loop. Aluminium from other sources, including End-of-Life vehicles, have the potential to be graded and ‘born again’ in the manufacture of new cars.


REALCAR began as a partnership between Jaguar Land Rover, Innovate UK, Novelis, Norton Aluminium, Stadco, Brunel University London, Zyomax and Innoval Technology. The original project and subsequent work with suppliers enabled Jaguar Land Rover to reclaim more than 75,000 tonnes of aluminium scrap and re-use it in the aluminium production process in 2016/17.

REALCAR was a research project based on high recycled sheet aluminium developments from closed loop sources. The Jaguar Land Rover led project was funded by the Innovate UK from 2008 to 2011 and resulted in the development of a modified aluminium sheet alloy. The alloy accommodates higher recycling rates through closed loop recycling of high quality segregated scrap at Jaguar Land Rover press shops and key external suppliers. To support the project, investment has been made in internal Jaguar Land Rover press shops to upgrade scrap segregation processes to retain alloy quality. The modified alloy has been developed for application as a sheet alloy in the latest generation Jaguar Land Rover vehicle body structures.
Implementing closed-loop aluminium recycling has involved cutting-edge chemistry, new infrastructure and investment of more than £13 million. The project, part-funded by Innovate UK, has involved more than 10 press shops (Jaguar Land Rover and external suppliers) with aluminium being re-melted by Novelis.

Jaguar Land Rover have invested more than £7m across its own Halewood, Castle Bromwich and Solihull press shops to install intricate segregation systems to capture and distribute the aluminium scrap for re-melting, reducing waste, retaining higher quality and value in the material.

Project partner, Novelis, also expanded its recycling plant in Latchford, Warrington in the UK in 2013, with an investment of approximately £6m, to enable the closed loop manufacturing for growing automotive aluminium sheet market. The investment in new equipment for recycling automotive aluminium scrap included a dedicated furnace, upgraded casting system, magnetic separation and handling equipment, as well as world class environmental controls.


The next innovation project REALCAR 2 was launched in February 2013 in conjunction with Innovate UK to investigate opportunities to exploit additional recycled aluminium from post-consumer sources through extraction from advanced waste separation facilities. This was a £1 million project to explore the business case and technology for including an additional 25% of recycled post-consumer, non-automotive scrap (including drink cans) in a new grade of aluminium alloy. The challenge was to develop an alloy that can absorb the wider range of chemical variations that result from post-consumer recycled materials, and still provide the high performance required for use in car body structures. The project also evaluated the potential for aluminium sourced from End-of-Life vehicles.

REALITY builds on the technological, commercial and value chain opportunities identified within REALCAR and REALCAR 2 to refine the process of turning aluminium from ‘end-of-life’ cars into new vehicles. The project continues to deliver significant sustainability benefits with aluminium recycling requiring up to 95 per cent less energy than primary aluminium production.

Innovate UK awarded a grant of £1.3 million to the project in 2016 as part of its Manufacturing and Materials Round One funding competition.

Simon Edmonds, Director of Manufacturing and Materials at Innovate UK, said: “Innovate UK is proud of our support for the REALCAR programme, and this exciting latest stage of the project, REALITY, is another excellent example of collaboration between large and small businesses in the supply chain, supporting them to scale up and become more productive. These projects have been a model in terms of professional delivery of complex research and development.”


Jaguar Land Rover are members of the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI), a global, multi-stakeholder, non-profit standards setting and certification organisation.  It is the result of producers, users and stakeholders in the aluminium value chain coming together with a commitment to maximising the contribution of aluminium to a sustainable society. The REALCAR and REALITY projects support the Material Stewardship Principle in the ASI Performance Standard to take a life cycle perspective and to promote resource efficiency, collection and recycling of aluminium within its operations as well as within the value chain.

For more information on how the REALITY project is an evolution from the REALCAR project, visit: