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An Introduction to Metal Recycling

According to the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), the most recycled metal on the planet is steel. Apart from steel, other metals like aluminum, silver, copper, copper, gold, titanium, and brass are also highly recycled.

Why do we recycle metals?

Metals can be recycled repeatedly without degrading their properties. This is the major reason why people are motivated to collect scrap metals and sale it to recycling operations.

There are also environmental benefits of recycling metals apart from the financial incentive. It helps us to preserve natural resources while using a low amount of energy to recycle. This energy is significantly lower than what is required to make new products from virgin raw materials. Further, recycling emits less harmful gases like carbon dioxide. Most importantly, recycling helps businesses to create new jobs and save the cost of production.

Quick Metal Recycling facts

Despite the fact that metals can be recycled without the degradation of their key properties, only 30% of metals are currently recycled. Some other recycling facts are highlighted below.

  • Recycled steel is used for nearly 40% of worldwide steel production
  • Recycled materials make up around 42% of crude steel in the United States.
  • Around 100 million tin and steel cans are used in the United States alone on a daily basis.
  • The ease of reprocessing iron and steel makes them the most recycled materials in the world. Recyclers use magnets separate them from a mixed waste stream.
  • The energy that can be derived from a can of aluminum thrown away is equivalent to the same can filled with gasoline.
  • The aluminum can is the single most recycled consumer product in the United States currently.
  • Around 400 million tons of metal are recycled worldwide on a yearly basis.

Types of metal recycled

There are two basic metal classifications – the ferrous and non-ferrous. Metals that are combinations of carbon and iron are referred to as Ferrous. Alloy steel, Carbon steel, cast iron, and wrought iron all belongs to this class. The non-ferrous metals do not contain iron and are not magnetic. Examples of non-ferrous metals include copper, zinc, copper, aluminum, and tin. Precious metals like gold, platinum, iridium, palladium, and silver are also non-ferrous.

The metal recycling process

Metal recycling follows the following process:

  1. Collection

Scrap metals can be collected from different sources like machines, crap vehicles, railroad tracks, ships, farm equipment etc. Scrap vehicles are the largest source of scrap ferrous metals in the U.S.

  1. Sorting

Sorting involves the separation of metals from the mixed scrap metal stream. Magnets and sensors are often used for sorting separation of metals. Sometimes the weight and color of the metal are used to determine the metal type.

  1. Processing

This starts with shredding to allow for effective melting. Then the metals are converted. For example, aluminum is converted into small sheets.

  1. Melting

Scrap metals are taken to specific furnace specially designed for that metal and melted. This process requires a small amount of energy

  1. Purification

Electrolysis is the most common method used to ensure that the product is free of contaminants. This is one step some companies like Metalliage will never joke with. No wonder they produce one of the best titanium metal amongst many companies.

  1. Solidification

Purified metals are carried by the conveyor belt to cool and solidify the metals. Different shapes of scrap metals are formed at this stage.

  1. Transportation of metal bars

Solidified metals are transported to various factories where they are used as raw materials for the production of brand new products.