Can Metals Be Recycled?


Metals have been and continue to play an important part in the development of human civilization. With the rising demand for metal across many industries, it’s a good idea to investigate metal recycling as a means of conserving natural resources and reducing waste. In this article, we’ll explore everything to do with the metal recycling process.

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Is metal recyclable?

Metal is recyclable, yes! It is estimated that 90 per cent of the scrap steel produced globally is recycled in some form. The metal recycling method involves collecting, classifying, processing and transforming metals that have been discarded into new goods.

This ultimately helps to preserve natural resources such as ores and minerals, along with preventing or reducing the air pollution and environmental damage caused by the mining of ore.

With metal recycling, we can foster a circular economy, extend the life of important resources and take steps toward creating a greener and more sustainable world.

Reuse vs recycle

While recycling metal entails melting and reshaping the scrap metal, reusing metal is something else – it is about using a metal object again without changing its shape and retaining its original structure and function.

For example, many forged automotive parts such as brake calipers and alternators are reconditioned using the same metal parts again and again.

Metal item reuse can help to extend their life, minimize total waste output and lessen the need for new products. This practice promotes resourcefulness, inventiveness and a more mindful approach to consuming, ultimately leading to a more sustainable way of living!

We can efficiently reduce our environmental impact and encourage more responsible use of our planet’s resources by combining reuse and recycling initiatives.

Importance of recycling metals

So why recycle metal? Recycling metal offers numerous benefits that extend beyond the immediate advantages of conserving natural resources, reducing waste and decreasing energy consumption.

For one, it helps mitigate climate change by lowering greenhouse gas emissions generated during the extraction and processing of virgin metals.

Recycling metal also promotes economic growth by creating jobs in the scrap metal recycling industry, from collection and transportation to processing and manufacturing.

It can stimulate local economies and foster technological innovation in recycling processes. Because of the sheer physical size and bulk of most ‘raw’ scrap metal, there is always a certain amount of processing that needs to be done close to the source. Once the scrap metal is processed into a more manageable form, such as crushed into small cubes or chopped into small pieces, the material goes for further processing.

By reducing the demand for virgin metals, recycling supports responsible resource management, alleviating the strain on our planet’s finite resources and ensuring their availability for future generations.

What metals cannot be recycled?

Although most scrap metal can be recycled, some face limitations due to their properties, toxicity or rarity. For instance, radioactive metals like uranium and plutonium cannot be recycled due to safety concerns.

Additionally, certain scrap metals may not be economically viable to recycle in small quantities. Scrap metal recyclers will generally not take materials contaminated with large amounts of paint, finishing materials or solvents.

Most commonly recycled metals

Ferrous metals

Ferrous metals are primarily composed of iron and include steel, cast iron and wrought iron. These metals are magnetic, making them easy to separate during the recycling process. Ferrous metal is widely used in the construction, automotive and appliance industries, and they are frequently recycled due to high demand.

Non-ferrous metals

Non-ferrous metals do not contain significant amounts of iron and are non-magnetic. Examples include aluminum, copper, brass, bronze, zinc and tin. These nonferrous metals are valuable for their corrosion resistance and lightweight properties, and they are often recycled across many industries.

Alloys

Alloys are a mixture of two or more metals or a metal and a nonmetal. Examples of recyclable alloys include stainless steel, brass and bronze. Alloy recycling can be a little more complex due to the need to separate different metals, but it is still an essential part of the metal recycling industry.

What are recycled metals used for?

Applications

Recycled metals are used in various industries, such as:

  • Construction: Recycled steel is used to create beams, bars and reinforcement materials.
  • Automotive: Aluminum, steel and other metals are recycled to produce new car parts, reducing the demand for virgin materials.
  • Packaging: Aluminum and tin cans are recycled to create new cans and other packaging materials.
  • Electronics: Metals like copper, gold and silver are reclaimed from electronic waste and reused in new electronic devices.
  • Appliances: Scrap metal from old appliances are recycled into new appliances, reducing waste and conserving resources.

Advantages of recycling metal

Recycling metal offers numerous benefits, including:

Divert waste from landfills

It is very important to recycle and ensure metal does not end up in a landfill, as it can have devastating effects on the environment and greenhouse emissions as such materials do not biodegrade so easily.

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Reduce energy use

Repurposing waste metal is more energy efficient than producing virgin metal, with recycled aluminum and copper requiring 95 per cent and 90 per cent less energy, respectively. This is due to the mining and processing of the ore as well as shaping and treating the metal uses so much energy.

Protect natural resources

Mining is disruptive and costly, leading to high consumer prices for virgin metal. Increased metal recycling and reduced mining of ores benefit the environment, consumers and ore reserves by preserving resources and reducing costs.

Benefits to the economy

Recycling benefits the economy through job creation and local investment, as it takes a large workforce to complete the process.

Endless recycling

Metal is a great material to recycle because it can be recycled indefinitely, diverting it from landfills.

Conclusion

So, can metals be recycled? Absolutely. Recycling metal is an essential practice that benefits both the environment and the economy. With the majority of metals being recyclable, it is important to promote and support recycling efforts within our communities. By recycling scrap metal and supporting the industry, we can conserve natural resources, reduce waste and promote a greener future.


Metal Supermarkets

Metal Supermarkets is the world’s largest small-quantity metal supplier with over 100 brick-and-mortar stores across the US, Canada, and United Kingdom. We are metal experts and have been providing quality customer service and products since 1985.

At Metal Supermarkets, we supply a wide range of metals for a variety of applications. Our stock includes: mild steel, stainless steel, aluminum, tool steel, alloy steel, brass, bronze and copper.

We stock a wide range of shapes including: bars, tubes, sheets, plates and more. And we can cut metal to your exact specifications.

Visit one of our 100+ locations across North America today.

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