Scrap metal includes parts of automobiles, containers and appliances. There are two primary categories of metals: ferrous and non-ferrous. Ferrous metals contain iron, while non-ferrous metals do not. The most commonly recycled ferrous metals are cans, containers and construction materials. Some common non-ferrous metals are copper, brass, aluminum, zinc and tin.
Steel and aluminum are the most commonly recycled metals. In 2011, the U.S. generated 2.2 million tons of steel and 1.9 million tons of aluminum as containers and packaging.
Unlike paper, scrap metal has an indefinite reuse life, which means that it can be recycled repeatedly without losing its strength.
How Is Scrap Metal Recycled?
Scrap metal can be collected from community recycling programs, electronic recycling and commercial scrap generators. Once the metal is collected, it is sorted by type and composition and then sent to a metal recycling plant. The plant inspects the quality of the scrap metal and makes sure the metals have been correctly separated. After the inspection, the metal is heated in a smelter, a machine that melts large objects at very high temperatures. Each type of metal has to go through a different smelter because different metals have different melting points. When the metals are fully molten, they are molded into small bars called ingots and allowed to cool. The ingots are sold to manufacturers who re-melt them and make the metal into new products, such as aluminum cans, filing cabinets and household products.
Why Recycle Scrap Metal?
Americans discard about 2.8 million tons of aluminum each year. In 2011, 55 percent of the aluminum beer and soft drink cans that were generated were recycled.
Recycling diverts scrap metal from landfills, saving valuable space, and conserves natural resources. When manufacturers use recycled metals, there is no need to extract raw materials. Using recycled materials saves energy and significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Recycling scrap aluminum, for example, requires only five percent of the energy used to make new aluminum from bauxite ore.
Manufacturing new products from recycled metal emits only a fraction of the CO2 released when using raw materials. Recycling also provides raw material for new products, offering a dramatically more efficient use of resources and saving both manufacturers and consumers money.
Electronic Waste (e-waste) and Automotive Shredder Residue (ASR) Recycling
Tuffman® and Eriez® joined together to create a system that is ideal for processing e-waste or ASR, both of which often contain valuable precious metals, which can be recovered through separation and sorting of the material.
Click here to learn more about this system.