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Aluminum Upcycled

Sustainable Design in Historical Perspective

Carl A. Zimring

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Tracing the benefits—and limitations—of repurposing aluminum.

Besides being the right thing to do for Mother Earth, recycling can also make money—particularly when it comes to upcycling, a zero waste practice where discarded materials are fashioned into goods of greater economic or cultural value. In Upcycling Aluminum, Carl A. Zimring explores how the metal’s abundance after World War II—coupled with the significant economic and environmental costs of smelting it from bauxite ore—led to the industrial production of valuable durable goods from salvaged aluminum.

Beginning in 1886 with the...

Tracing the benefits—and limitations—of repurposing aluminum.

Besides being the right thing to do for Mother Earth, recycling can also make money—particularly when it comes to upcycling, a zero waste practice where discarded materials are fashioned into goods of greater economic or cultural value. In Upcycling Aluminum, Carl A. Zimring explores how the metal’s abundance after World War II—coupled with the significant economic and environmental costs of smelting it from bauxite ore—led to the industrial production of valuable durable goods from salvaged aluminum.

Beginning in 1886 with the discovery of how to mass produce aluminum, the book examines the essential part the metal played in early aviation and the world wars, as well as the troubling expansion of aluminum as a material of mass disposal. Recognizing that scrap aluminum was as good as virgin material and much more affordable than newly engineered metal, designers in the postwar era used aluminum to manufacture highly prized artifacts. Zimring takes us on a tour of post-1940s design, examining the use of aluminum in cars, trucks, airplanes, furniture, and musical instruments from 1945 to 2015.

By viewing upcycling through the lens of one material, Zimring deepens our understanding of the history of recycling in industrial society. He also provides a historical perspective on contemporary sustainable design practices. Along the way, he challenges common assumptions about upcycling’s merits and adds a new dimension to recycling as a form of environmental absolution for the waste-related sins of the modern world. Raising fascinating questions of consumption, environment, and desire, Upcycling Aluminum is for anyone interested in industrial and environmental history, discard studies, engineering, product design, music history, or antiques.

Reviews

Reviews

The work presents a robust survey of the developmental history of aluminum as an engineering material, the need for huge sources of electrical power to refine it, its applications in the aircraft industry, and its use in household items... Recommended.

Aluminum Upcycled provides an excellent overview to the enormous growth of aluminum and to the history and design of the diverse applications of the metal. Indeed, it is a worthy addition to the literature of the aluminum industry.

Zimring’s Aluminum Upcycled makes a valuable contribution to the fields of design and industrial ecology, as well as to business and environmental history.

A wonderful, eye-opening read, available from Johns Hopkins University Press.

Aluminum Upcycled shows that sustainable design practices have a long, fascinating history that can inform contemporary debates and challenge common assumptions... The well-balanced book speaks to historians of technology as much as to historians of environment, waste, design, and music.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
216
ISBN
9781421421865
Illustration Description
18 halftones, 2 line drawings
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction. Toward a History of Upcycling
Part I
1. From Scarcity to Abundance
2. Designing Waste
3. A Recyclable Resource
Part II
4. Metal in Motion
5. Covetable Aluminum Furniture
6. Guitar

Acknowledgments
Introduction. Toward a History of Upcycling
Part I
1. From Scarcity to Abundance
2. Designing Waste
3. A Recyclable Resource
Part II
4. Metal in Motion
5. Covetable Aluminum Furniture
6. Guitar Sustain
Conclusion. Designing for Sustainability
Notes
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Carl A. Zimring, Ph.D.

Carl A. Zimring is a professor of social science and cultural studies at Pratt Institute. He is the author of Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in the United States and Aluminum Upcycled: Sustainable Design in Historical Perspective.