Alcoa makes ‘green’ improvements to Ohio facility

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Alcoa announces its $21 million casthouse expansion at its Barberton, Ohio plant is expected to cut in half the total amount of energy used to recycle aluminum for forged wheels, reducing greenhouse gases and increasing the overall efficiency and sustainability of the company’s manufacturing process.

The recycling facility, the first of its kind in North America, uses advanced technology to produce wheels from re-melted and scrap aluminum, Alcoa says. Construction of the 50,000-sq.-ft. facility began in July 2011. It is now up and running at full capacity and has created more than 30 full-time jobs, the company says.

“Alcoa’s casthouse brings ‘green’ technology and new manufacturing jobs to Northeast Ohio,” says Tim Myers, president, Alcoa Wheel and Transportation Products. “Sustainability is integrated into Alcoa’s business strategy, and this facility allows us to take our recycling practices to a new level, recycling 100 million pounds of scrap aluminum each year in a more energy efficient way.”

One-hundred million pounds of recycled scrap aluminum is enough to make two million new Alcoa forged aluminum wheels, the company says. The casthouse takes chips and solids from an existing Alcoa wheel machining plant on the same campus in Barberton, as well as from Alcoa’s Cleveland forging plant, and recycles them into aluminum billets. The billets are then shipped to other wheel-processing facilities to forge into aluminum wheels.

Alcoa says the casthouse is expected to significantly reduce energy use through a combination of process improvements and reduced transportation needs. The facility is located on the campus of an existing production facility, which has led to dramatic reductions in transportation needs, leading to an approximately 90 percent cut in transportation-related energy use. Additionally, Alcoa says its aluminum wheels offer advantages to the environment and the consumer. Aluminum wheels reduce the overall weight of the vehicle, which significantly improves fuel efficiency and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

“This new, more energy-efficient facility makes our 100 percent recyclable aluminum wheels even more environmentally friendly,” says Kevin Anton, Alcoa’s Chief Sustainability Officer. “This project is also part of the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge, through which we will share best practices — such as linking energy goals to compensation — to help other companies reduce their industrial energy intensity.”

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