Updated 22 July 2023
When thinking about recycling, the first thoughts are plastics or cardboard products. While recycling these products is crucial, scrap metal recycling does not always come to mind. Yet scrap metal holds onto its original properties no matter how many times it is recycled. This takes the idea of reusing products to a different level.
Metals are all around us. They are turned into components and items that we use daily. And the great thing about metals is that they can be recycled over and over without affecting their properties. Steel is considered the most recycled material globally, while other metals like aluminium, copper, gold, and silver follow suit.
At Collins Recycling, we want to keep you informed regarding our processes. This blog post will give you a clearer picture of scrap metal recycling. We will discuss how metal is recycled and ferrous metal recycling. Additionally, you will get information about recycling metal and some of the benefits of recycled scrap metal.
How Is Scrap Metal Recycled?
When talking about scrap recycling, this process involves recovering and processing scrap metal. The material is derived from products or structures, typically nearing the end of their life. But it can also be scrapped that come from manufacturing plants. The metals are gathered to be introduced as a new material that can then be used to produce new goods.
Because metals do not degrade even with repeated processing, they can be recycled unlimitedly. It allows the production of new products without generating a high carbon footprint, a huge concern when creating new products.
But what does the scrap metal recycling process entail? It is quite a complex method involving plenty of steps. Suppose you have scrap metal that you no longer need, or you run a construction or manufacturing business. In that case, you can take it to a proven firm that takes care of recycling scrap. Collins Recycling is one of the companies with several years of experience providing environmentally-friendly scrap metal recycling services.
If you sell your scrap to Collins Recycling, you are probably wondering what will happen to it. Here’s how it works:
1. Collection of Materials
There are two types of metals. Ferrous metals contain iron and steel. And non-ferrous metals such as aluminium, brass, and copper. Most ferrous metals are in vehicles, steel structures, and other equipment. Many sources of scrap metal (such as appliances and electronics) are a combination of ferrous and non-ferrous materials. Both types of metals in a single product can make the recycling process challenging.
The sorting step in the recycling process involves separating metal from waste materials. The process was once performed by hand, resulting in much slower sorting. However, today’s recycling facilities rely on sensors and magnets to ensure correct separation.
3. Crushing and Shredding
Next, compactors crush the metal to make it easier to move on conveyor belts to the shredder. Recycling plants shred the crushed metal into much smaller pieces, about the size of a hand. Shredding is necessary to ensure quick melting, which saves energy. The whole process does less harm to the environment than mining for new ore.
Magnetic drums separate the ferrous and non-ferrous metals, and the next step is melting. The different types of metal go to the furnaces designed for the properties of the various metals. The furnaces help reduce the impact on the planet by using fuel-efficient regenerative burners which need less energy to operate. Jet stirrers ensure even temperature and improved metal circulation. These are vital in producing the highest quality metal.
Electricity powers a non-spontaneous chemical reaction dissolving impurities. The molten metal must undergo purification to ensure all contaminants are removed and the final product is of the highest quality. Typically, a process known as Eddy current electrolysis eliminates impurities. An impure piece of metal (anode) will be connected to a thin sheet of metal (cathode) to produce electricity. These two pieces will be dipped in an aqueous solution containing metal salt. Electric current will be applied to the electrolytic cell where the cathode and anode are. It will cause the pure metal to be deposited at the cathode.
After purification, the metal moves by conveyor belt to be poured into moulds. This makes handling the recycled scrap metal easier.
The recycled metals will become part of new products. Because metals retain their properties, reusing metals does not diminish the performance when used in a new product.
The seven-step process can be repeated without limits. If you have any appliance or equipment about to reach the end of its useful life or has already died, don’t just throw it in the bin. Contact Collins Recycling so we can take it off your hands and recycle it for you.
The Top Five Benefits of Recycling
Metal recycling is now a powerful economic activity in Australia. Metal consumption has grown rapidly. According to research published in the University of Queensland Journal of Cleaner Production, metal usage went from 8.8 million tonnes to 12.3 million tonnes from 2002 to 2011. That means one person consumed 445 to 551 kg during the mentioned period. Consequently, the generated waste increased, from 5 to 6 million tonnes, equivalent to 250 to 270 kilograms per individual. Metal scrap collection grew, as well, from 3.3 to 3.9 million tonnes.
Considering the figures above, why is it even necessary to recycle metals? Metals are valuable, and they can be recycled without degradation. Therefore, metals can be recycled many times, and they will continue to have the same properties. Old pieces of copper that have been in many devices can be used in new electronics, and they will perform the same way.
Here are other reasons why it’s time for people to get involved with metal recycling:
1. Reduce the Need for Landfills
Make no mistake, when scrap metal goes into a garbage dumpster instead of being recycled, its next stop is a landfill. As the metal sits, it adds toxic material to the soil that then seeps into the water table. When tonne after tonne of recyclable metal is dumped into landfills, the negative effect is doubled. New raw materials must be mined, and the environment receives fresh doses of poisonous materials.
Along with many other nations, Australia sees the economic advantage of recycling metals. Research published in the University of Queensland Journal of Cleaner Production shows that current metal consumption has skyrocketed from levels seen in the early 21st century. As use increases, so does waste. However, the abundance of scrap metal is also an opportunity to make money.
The news is encouraging. Scrap metal collection is on the rise, and Australians are close to a 90 per cent steel recycling rate. Every tonne of steel recycled eliminates the need for mining 1130kg of iron ore, over 630kg of coal and 54kg of limestone. Additionally, scrap metal recycling provides stable jobs which help to improve the economy.
3. Reduce Carbon Emissions
Carbon emissions have a substantial negative impact on the environment. And mining raw materials release significant amounts of carbon emissions. According to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries reports, we can lower the emissions of greenhouse gases by 300 million to 500 million tons when we recycle metal. The National Institute of Health reported that opting for scrap metal instead of raw ore can lower water consumption by 40 per cent and generate less mining waste by 97 per cent.
By reducing greenhouse gasses, we improve the lives of those who have breathing difficulties while slowing the impact of climate change.
4. Energy Savings
When scrap metal replaces new raw materials in production, a considerable amount of energy is saved compared to the power necessary to convert raw materials into usable compounds. For example, the amount of fuel used to make a single can from raw materials can make 20 cans from recycled metal.
5. Help the Environment
No matter how you choose to look at the issue of climate change, the simple fact is we have no plan B when we pollute the Earth so severely it is uninhabitable.
Recycling scrap metal reduces the strain on already fragile ecosystems. Additionally, landscapes and animal habitats are spared the consequences of mining, and toxic materials stay out of the ground. When you recycle scrap metal, you are helping yourself and generations to come.
What Are the Main Types of Scrap Metal?
To understand the recycling process better, it’s important to know the two main types of scrap metal, which are:
- Ferrous metal, which contains iron combined with carbon
- Non-ferrous metal, which does not contain iron
Some examples of ferrous metals include alloy steel, carbon steel, and cast iron. Meanwhile, non-ferrous metals include aluminium, nickel, tin, zinc, lead, and copper.
Metal is indeed all around us. But if the obsolete metal is not recycled, it will be dumped in a landfill site and considered hazardous waste, no matter which source it came from. Years ago, recycling metals was difficult, but modern technologies have allowed facilities to make the sorting process more manageable.
Separating different types of metals has become quite effective over the years. However, there is still a call for improvement in sorting non-ferrous metals. This is especially important because ferrous metals are easily detected. They contain iron, which means the magnets pull them out of the mixed stream of waste.
Recovering precious metals like platinum, gold, and palladium, along with other valuable metals like lead, silver, and copper, is only economically viable if enough is collected. That’s why the collection and separation phases are essential in recycling scrap metal.