GreenYes Archives
[GreenYes Archives] - [Thread Index] - [Date Index]
[Date Prev] - [Date Next] - [Thread Prev] - [Thread Next]

[GreenYes] Holding Alcoa Accountable for its Sustainability Goals
On September 30, 2002, Alcoa Executive Vice President John Pizzey addressed 
the Aluminum Association at its annual meeting in Nemacolin, Pennsylvania. 
Some of you may have seen his remarks quoted in Recycling Today's online 
edition.  The Container Recycling Insitute will be posting a downloadable 
response to his speech on our website (, the text 
of which follows: 

On the surface, Mr. Pizzey's speech was a strong endorsement of Alcoa's 
environmental practices and goals, and a pitch to other aluminum companies to 
adopt them as well.

We are heartened by Alcoa's acknowledgement that global climate change is a 
reality, and applaud its on-going R&D efforts on inert anodes--technology 
which would dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from smelting.  We 
also applaud Mr. Pizzey's recognition of the need to clean up the industry's 
environmental practices in general, and to undertake "cradle-to-cradle" LCAs 
(lifecycle analyses).  That said, we are concerned about other aspects of Mr. 
Pizzey’s speech, including things he did not say. 

* Mr. Pizzey: "Sustainability requires environmental excellence, economic 
success and social responsibility.  … At Alcoa, we have developed a strategic 
framework that allows each of our businesses worldwide to develop its own 
goals and action plans within that framework." 

CRI responds: Use of the word "sustainability" without concrete, well-defined 
goals and policies is not meaningful.   Further, we fear that by allowing 
each of its businesses worldwide to set and attain their own sustainability 
goals and action plans, people and natural habitats in countries with weak 
environmental laws will lose out.

* Mr. Pizzey says:  "The set of goals we have established will serve as 
milestones along the way to our ultimate vision of a company where… "the 
environment is fully integrated into manufacturing." 

CRI responds: How will the environment fare in places like Iceland, Brazil, 
Chile, and Mozambique, where irreplaceable wilderness areas are threatened by 
proposed dams, smelters, and other elements of the megalithic aluminum 
manufacturing infrastructure?  

Once a rainforest has been inundated by a series of hydroelectric dams and 
reservoirs, there is no environment left to "integrate."  Once a deep scenic 
canyon is flooded, it is gone.  Once wetlands or estuaries have been drained, 
filled or contaminated as a result of smelter construction or operation, they 
no longer serve as breeding grounds for waterfowl or habitat for marine life. 
 Once archaeological treasures have been buried by rising waters, they are 
lost to history.  Once agricultural lands have been subsumed by mines or 
tailings ponds, there is no going back.  

The construction of new dams, smelters, and strip mines is not compatible 
with environmental protection, period. No matter how it is couched--the 
constant addition of bauxite and aluminum production capacity through 
greenfield construction is not sustainable.

 * Mr. Pizzey says:  "By 2020, 50 percent of our products,  except raw ingot 
that we would sell to others directly, will be made from recycled aluminum" 

CRI responds:  
1) This statement is unclear, and is not clarified on Alcoa's website.  Does 
it mean that these products will be wholly made from recycled aluminum, or  
partially, and if so--what percent? Will the recycled aluminum be "new 
scrap," which has always been recycled, or "old scrap," which is truly 
post-consumer?  The industry has played fast and loose with recycled content 
terminology and percentages before; we must be vigilant about what these 
goals really mean.   

2) 2020 is not soon enough.  Irreplaceable ecosystems and human communities 
will be swallowed by the industry's great maw if 18 years transpire before a 
modest--and vague--50% goal is met.  In the last decade, cans and other 
products have been introduced in many markets lacking recycling 
infrastructures.  With $22.9 billion in annual revenues, Alcoa has investment 
capital at its disposal to build greenfield plants in remote, often 
inaccessible regions.  The company must act now, using all its powers of 
persuasion, to convince investors to develop a global recycling 

* Mr. Pizzey says:  "[A]pproximately two-thirds of aluminum ever produced: 
440 million tons of 680 million tons manufactured since 1886…is still in 

CRI responds: 
1) We would like to see data to corroborate this statement.  Data on current 
and historic recycling rates suggest that the percentage of aluminum "still 
in use" may be much lower.

2) If it is true that two thirds of the aluminum ever made is still in use, 
the converse must also be true: one third, or at least 220 million tons of 
valuable aluminum, have been wasted over the past century: dumped, 
landfilled, incinerated, or littered.  This represents an energy waste 
equivalent to more than 6 billion barrels of crude oil (yes, billion, not 
million)--enough to keep all 200 million American passenger cars and light 
trucks on the road for over two years (12K mi/yr/car @20mpg). 

3) The wasting of valuable aluminum continues.  For each ton of metal 
landfilled, another ton must be made from virgin materials to take its place. 
 Aluminum can waste in the United States alone was 760,000 tons in 2001, as 
the domestic UBC recycling rate dropped to 49%--the lowest rate in 15 years. 
In 2001, 50.7 billion cans were wasted—up from 45.8 billion wasted the 
previous year. The U.S. EPA also estimates that 1.6 million tons of non-can 
aluminum were wasted in 2000. 

Alcoa and its industry colleagues must address the wasting problem now:    
Declining aluminum can recycling rates and increasing beverage can wasting 
can and must be reversed, by adopting deposit laws, or "bottle bills."  By 
placing a refundable deposit (historically a nickel) on cans and bottles, 
these systems have routinely achieved beverage container recycling rates of 
70% or more, even though a nickel today is worth less than half of what is 
was 20 years ago when most deposit laws were passed.  In Michigan, where the 
deposit is a dime, the rate exceeds 95%.  Rates in non-deposit states range 
from 20-40%.  

Yet despite this evidence, the Aluminum Association has opposed bottle bills, 
favoring "voluntary" and taxpayer-funded programs, which have failed to 
achieve high recycling rates. 

If Alcoa is serious about encouraging recycling to meet broad sustainability 
goals, it must come out in favor of deposit legislation, and must persuade 
its industry colleagues to do the same. 

The full text of Mr. Pizzey's speech is available at:  

Container Recycling Institute, 2002.

Jennifer Gitlitz
Director of Research, Container Recycling Institute
Home office: 
1010 Pleasant St.
Worcester, MA 01602
Phone: (508) 793-8516
eFax: (928) 833-0460

Container Recycling Institute
1911 Ft Myer Drive, Suite 702
Arlington, Virginia  22209
Phone: (703) 276-9800  
Fax (703) 276-9587
To post to the greenyes list,
email to:

subscription, faq and netiquette info for
this list are available here:
Please be sure to read the faq and netiquette
pages before posting.

[GreenYes Archives] - [Date Index] - [Thread Index]
[Date Prev] - [Date Next] - [Thread Prev] - [Thread Next]