Aluminum is one of the most popular materials in use today, and that’s why the countries that use the most aluminum are among the largest and most developed nations in the world. In fact, aluminum is such a ubiquitous metal that you’ll notice the greater a county’s population, the more aluminum it consumes. This is because it has become such a prominent material with countless applications.
You might be surprised to learn that as popular as aluminum is today, it wasn’t always. In fact, the history of aluminum’s commercialization only dates back about a hundred years. Despite being one of the most common elements in the Earth’s crust, it wasn’t until the 19th century that scientists learned how to extract aluminum from ores such as bauxite. That makes its ascendancy in modern industry even more amazing.
In this post, we’ll be looking at which countries use the most aluminum and in which industries it is most prevalent.
China is the world’s biggest consumer of aluminum
It is no coincidence that China is both the largest producer and consumer of aluminum. Even if it were purchasing aluminum from outside its borders, it would likely still be one of the largest consumers of this amazing and transformative metal. That’s because with over 1.3 billion people, there’s a lot of demand.
In fact, in 2013, China was responsible for 48% of all aluminum consumption, nearly half, and more than North America, South America and Europe combined. What is driving all the usage of aluminum?
China is a significant producer of aluminum, so access to cheap aluminum is a given. The Chinese government also subsidizes many of the production elements that go into its manufacture such as energy. Cheap labor is also plentiful in the Republic of China. They don’t need to import most of their aluminum, like we do here in the United States.
There’s more to the situation than that. China also happens to be the largest consumer nation in the world. This means that the country has a high demand for products, including products that utilize aluminum in their design or packaging.
The food and beverage industries are a large part of this, but two other sectors that are pillars of China’s economy are construction and transportation. For several decades now, China has made developing infrastructure and building up its urban centers a top priority, and aluminum is a key material in this endeavor. At the same time, the automotive sector in China is the world’s largest, with 30% of global production.
With all that, it’s no surprise that China is the world’s largest consumer of aluminum.
Europe is number two when it comes to aluminum
The next region on the list of aluminum consumers is Europe. This makes sense, as Russia is one of the largest producers of aluminum, and with many developed nations and high-tech industries, it’s no surprise that aluminum would be in demand.
Of the European countries, Germany leads the way in aluminum consumption by a wide margin, accounting for more than twice that of the second largest consumer, Turkey. As with China, one of the principal drivers of this aluminum demand is from the automobile industry, as Germany is a global center of automotive production.
Other countries high on the list in Europe include Turkey followed by Italy, Spain, France, Russia and Greece. In addition to transportation and construction, one of the big growth areas for aluminum in Europe is the renewable energy sector.
The solar industry industry has found a lot of ways to implement aluminum. Its many benefits include aluminum’s lightweight and strength, while offering excellent corrosion protection, surface reflectivity and electrical/thermal conductivity. That’s not to mention the unique optic properties that can be provided by aluminum’s anodic coating.
Other applications in the renewable sector include wind power generation, such as wind turbines and aluminum-air batteries. Plus, because of aluminum’s ease of recyclability, it makes it even more attractive to eco-conscious companies and consumers as a sustainable material choice.
What about North American aluminum production?
Next is North America, which accounts for twelve percent of the world’s aluminum consumption (as of 2013 https://marketrealist.com/2014/12/major-regions-consume-aluminum/). While not a large producer of aluminum compared to countries like China, Russia and Australia, the U.S. is one of the biggest consumers.
In terms of how the consumption can be broken down by industry, as with the other regions mentioned, transportation is the largest, by a narrow margin. This is again because of aluminum’s light weight and high strength-to-weight ratio, which makes it great for creating fuel efficient yet safe vehicles.
Next on the list is construction. Aluminum is a popular material for use in larger multi-story buildings because its high strength, combined with its aesthetic appearance, makes it essential for the large glass-bearing spans that are the hallmark of modern architecture. Number three is foil and packaging, of which there is a never-ending demand for in the United States. Number four is electrical engineering, followed by machinery/equipment and consumer goods.
One area we haven’t mentioned, but which is a significant industry in North America, is aerospace. American stalwarts such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics have used aluminum in airplanes and spacecraft since World War II. More recently, modern companies like Space X and Blue Origin are taking space travel into exciting new directions thanks in large part to aluminum.
Your Trusted Aluminum Provider
While aluminum is a global commodity that is shipped around the world, you need a materials supplier you can trust when making important purchases. At Clinton Aluminum, our team of dedicated professionals is committed to helping our clients make the best purchasing decisions based on sound and reliable information. We do more than just sell aluminum; we work with our customers through every step of the procurement process to ensure they get the most out of their investment.
Contact a friendly member of our sales team to learn more about our full range of aluminum alloys.