Metals are something that the average individual rarely buys, even though metals make up a critical part of our everyday lives. From the pots and pans we use to cook with, to the car we use as transportation, and the airlines we rely on for travel, it’s hard to imagine how any of how would survive without the steady supply of metals.
There is a clear need for the recycling of scrap metal, for several reasons. One is environmental: allowing scrap metal to end up in landfills poses risks, since those metals contain chemicals like mercury that can poison the nearby soil and ground water.
The other factor is economic: by recycling scrap metal, we can use those parts to manufacture new metal products, which is considerably less expensive than mining for ore to obtain new metals. Recycling is also a great way to hold down costs involved with the manufacturing process.
So what exactly happens to scrap when it does get recycled? Good question.
How is scrap metal recycled?
If you’re an individual who has scrap that you no longer want, or a business like a construction or manufacturing site with excess scrap, you can bring it to a proven recycling firm like GLE Scrap Metal, which has spent years performing environmentally-friendly processing and recycling of all base and precious metals.
If you’ve ever sold scrap to a recycling firm and wondered what happened to it, or if you’re curious to learn more about the entire recycling process, there are numerous stages in the process of metal recycling.
First, keep in mind that there are two types of metals that can be recycled, ferrous and non-ferrous. Ferrous metals are combinations of iron with carbon, and examples include carbon steel, alloy steel, cast iron and wrought iron.
Examples of non-ferrous metals include aluminum, copper, lead, zinc, and tin.
The metal recycling process involves collecting the metals, processing them, and then eventually having them shredded and then melted in furnaces at high temperatures to produce blocks or sheets to be sold to manufacturers of metal products.
And there is a definite need for scrap to be recycled. Virtually every kind of metal can be recycled — again and again, in fact — without the properties within it being significantly degraded. However, today just 30 percent of metal is being recycled, a figure that’s far too low.
However, a rising percentage of steel production around the world – up to 40 percent – is being made using
recycled steel. And every year, up to 400 million tons of metal gets recycled worldwide.
So once metals are brought in to a recycling firm like GLE Scrap, what happens to it? It goes through several stages.
The first is the Collection process. There are a lot of products that contain both ferrous and non-ferrous metals; for example, the largest source of scrap ferrous metal is from scrap vehicles, although other sources can include steel structures, ships, railroad tracks, farm equipment, and consumer scrap like appliances, office furniture and other items.
Then next step is sorting, which involves separating metals from the mixed scrap metal stream or the waste stream that involves multiple materials. Magnets and sensors are used in the automated recycling operation so these materials can be separated.
Next is processing, where metals are shredded. These shredded metals have a large surface-to-volume ratio and can be melted using less energy than it would require to rely on mining for ore to get new metals. Scrap metal processing plants crush the metal in compactors so it can more easily get handled on conveyor belts, and then the scrap is shred into pieces.
Next is melting. Scrap metal gets melted in a large furnace, and each metal is taken to a specific furnace designed for that particular metal. Depending on the size of the furnace, melting can take anywhere from a few minutes to hours. The furnaces have fuel-efficient regenerative burners designed to reduce the amount of energy being used so there is a minimal impact on the environment.
That leads to the next step: purification, which is done to ensure the final product offers high quality and is free of contaminants. Electrolysis is among the most common methods used for purification. It involves using a direct electric current to drive an otherwise non-spontaneous chemical reaction. Electrolysis is important as a stage in the separation of elements from naturally occurring sources.
After purification, the next step is solidifying. The melted metals are solidified by being carried by the conveyor belt to cool. Scrap metals at this stage gets formed into specific shapes that can be easily used for the production of numerous metal products.
Finally, once the metals are cooled and solidified, they’re ready for use, and are transported to manufacturing plants to be used as raw material for the production of new products.
And the best news is that these new products can be recycled all over again once they come to the end of their useful life.
Why more metal recycling is needed
Virtually every kind of metal can be recycled. Still, the current metal recycling rate of 30 percent is far too low.
There is a clear financial incentive to recycling metal. Scrappers who collect scrap metals and bring them to a recycling firm can earn money for the metals they find, and the same is true for businesses that collect their scrap and deliver it to a recycling firm like GLE Scrap Metal.
In addition, recycling holds down expenses in the manufacturing process. It costs far less to use recycled metals than to manufacture new products using virgin raw materials. In addition to saving money, it also allows manufacturing businesses to reduce their overall production costs and pass those savings on to consumers, and recycling also creates jobs.
And, of course, there’s an important environmental impact of recycling metals. Recycling metals allow us to preserve natural resources. Recycling also uses far less energy to process than mining for virgin ore to get new metals. Recycling also emits far less carbon dioxide and other harmful gasses. There are substantial energy savings from recycling scrap metal.
And we don’t want scrap to end up in landfills. These metals contain toxic chemicals like mercury that can pose risks to the soil and water near the landfill, raising the possibility that this scrap will create potentially significant health problems for people and wildlife in the area.
There truly are plenty of benefits to recycling scrap metal.
We all need to play a part in increasing recycling rates for scrap metal, since it’s good for our environment and helps our economy as well. A great place to start is by taking your scrap to GLE Scrap Metal, a premier scrap metal recycler.
GLE will purchase, process, and re-integrate all recyclable base metals, while maintaining a zero-landfill policy to help utilize natural resources and to conserve energy.
They also supply domestic mills and global end-users with a wide range of raw commodities that can be transformed into new products.
Call GLE Scrap Metal today at 855-SCRAP-88 to request a quote.