An Introduction to Metal Recycling

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Metals can be recycled repeatedly without altering their properties. According to the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), steel is the most recycled material on the planet. The other highly recycled metals include aluminum, copper, silver, brass, and gold.

Why Do We Recycle Metals?

Metals are valuable materials that can be recycled again and again without degrading their properties. Scrap metal has value, which motivates people to collect it for sale to recycling operations.

In addition to a financial incentive, there is also an environmental imperative. The recycling of metals enables us to preserve natural resources while requiring less energy to process than the manufacture of new products using virgin raw materials. Recycling emits less carbon dioxide and other harmful gasses. More importantly, it saves money and allows manufacturing businesses to reduce their production cost. Scrap cable wire recycle machine also creates jobs.

Quick Metal Recycling Facts

Although almost every kind of metal can be recycled again and again without degradation of properties, in 2018, only 34% of metal in U.S. municipal waste facilities was recycled. Below are some additional facts:

In 2019, 490.98 million (32%) of the the 1,532.51 million metric tons of crude steel produced worldwide was made using recycled materials with scrap motor wrecker.

Around 69% of crude steel in the United States in 2019 was made of recycled materials.

In the United States alone, around 2.2 million tons of steel cans and other steel packaging waste were generated in 2018.

Steel and iron are the most recycled materials in the world due in part to the opportunity to recover large structures as well as the ease of reprocessing. The use of magnets in the sorting process enables recyclers to easily separate them from the mixed waste stream.

Currently, the single most recycled container in the world is the aluminum can.

Recycling a single aluminum can save enough energy to power 100-watt light bulb for nearly four hours.

Types of Metals Recycled

Metals can be classified as ferrous, or non-ferrous. Ferrous metals are combinations of iron with carbon. Some common ferrous metals include carbon steel, alloy steel, wrought iron, and cast iron.

On the other hand, non-ferrous metals include aluminum, copper, lead, zinc, and tin. Precious metals are non-ferrous. The most common precious metals include gold, platinum, silver, iridium, and palladium. 

The Metal Recycling Process

The main stages of the metal recycling process are as follows:

1. Collection

The collection process for metals differs than that for other materials because of higher scrap value. As such, it is more likely to be sold to scrap yards than sent to the landfill. The largest source of scrap ferrous metal in the U.S. is from scrap vehicles.6

Other sources include large steel structures, railroad tracks, ships, farm equipment, and of course, consumer scrap. Prompt scrap, which is created in the course of new product manufacturing, accounts for one-half of ferrous scrap supply.

2. Sorting

Sorting involves separating metals from the mixed scrap metal stream or the mixed multi-material waste stream. In automated recycling operations, magnets and sensors are used to aid in material separation. There are machines as electrostatic separators.

At the entrepreneurial level, scrappers may employ a magnet, as well as to observe the material color or weight to help determine the metal type. For example, aluminum will be silver and light. Other important colors to look for are copper, yellow (for brass) and red, for red brass. Scrappers will improve the value of their material by segregating clean metal from the dirty material.

3. Processing

To allow further processing, metals are shredded. Shredding is done to promote the melting process as small shredded metals have a large surface to volume ratio. There are metal crushing machinehydraulic metal processing machinerecycle accessory machine.

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