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.
The Scrap Metal Recycling Process
When talking about scrap metal 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:
- The process begins with the collection of metals. It sounds like a simple procedure, but it is quite complex. Scrap metals can either be ferrous or non-ferrous. The largest sources of scrap ferrous are vehicles, as well as ships, steel structures, farm equipment, and railroad tracks. Lots of products make it difficult to collect their metals because they contain both ferrous and non-ferrous metals. Appliances and electronics typically come with those two types, making the collection process more complicated, particularly in the next step.
- Sorting takes place once the scrap metals have been gathered. In this procedure, metals will be separated from the mixed stream, including both metals and just waste. Many years ago, this process was performed manually, but recycling facilities today have sensors and magnets. Therefore, sorting has become quicker and more efficient.
- Now we get into the official process of recycling involving the shredding of metals into tinier pieces. Once shredded, the metals will be melted. You probably wonder why there is a need to shred them when they are melted. It’s simply because metals have a surface to volume ratio, so they should first be cut up into smaller bits. That way, melting them will use less energy and time. This is where the recycling process beats mining for ore. Getting new metals from the earth costs a lot of money and time. It also requires a ton of energy, which can be harmful to the planet.
- We’ll talk a little more about the melting process. Once the metals are crushed using the compactors, the conveyor belts move them to the shredder. And after thoroughly shredding, the pieces will be delivered to a large furnace where they will be melted. Most of the time, there is a specific furnace for each type of metal or at least for ferrous and non-ferrous metals. Depending on the furnace size, this process can take a few minutes to a few hours. Isn’t this bad for the environment, though? No. The furnaces are fuel-efficient. They have regenerative burners, which reduce the energy used to burn and melt metal. Therefore, these burners have minimal impact on the environment.
- Once all the metals are melted, it’s time to purify them. This step is required to ensure the final product is high quality and does not have any contaminants. There are various ways to refine the melted metals, but one of the most common is known as electrolysis. It involves the use of electricity to drive a non-spontaneous chemical reaction. 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. It will then result in the anode’s impurities being dissolved.
- Once the purification process is completed, solidifying the melted metals is next. The metals are left to cool on the conveyor belt, which carries them to their next destination. Scrap metals will have their specific shape, making them easier to manipulate. This way, they can be used in new metal products.
- And that leads to the final step, which is where the metals are ready for use. They will be transported to a manufacturing plant to become a part of a new product, such as a car, refrigerator, or mobile phone.
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 Many Benefits of Metal 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:
Reduced Reliance for Landfills
Putting the metals in the bin means that you’re letting your local waste authority manage the old metals. So, the useful metals can go directly into landfills. The continuous use of landfills is convenient for homeowners and businesses, but not the environment and the future generation. Landfills are actually among the largest sources of pollution.
Australia has about 1,168 landfills, and each handles approximately 20 million tonnes of rubbish every year. Eight per cent of the landfills accept more than 70% of waste from residential and commercial properties. As the population grows, the waste produced increases, as well. Unfortunately, waste is not correctly managed, with predominant issues like odour, fire risks, leachate, and litter.
And in 2012-13, the amount of contaminated soil reached 1.4 million tonnes due to hazardous waste. It’s time to decrease our dependence on landfill sites, and recycling metals can help achieve this goal.
There is a clear financial incentive in recycling scrap metal since it offers opportunities to earn cash. Metals are valuable, which should prompt you to collect and sell them for profit. Sure, you will not become a millionaire for selling your scrap metal. But instead of sending your old equipment to landfills, collect them for sale to recycling facilities.
Recycling, in general, provides many advantages. Metal recycling is no exception. It is beneficial for everyone on the planet for the years to come. Mining is the way to acquire metal ores, which typically come from untouched landscapes. As a result, these landscapes that are often the homes of animals are destroyed just to obtain metal. By recycling, mining is avoided, and the environment is protected.
Processing metal ores are also harmful to the planet. Together with mining, newly discovered metal ores can lead to a devastating amount of pollution in the air. According to environmentalists, the energy spent on creating 20 cans from recycled metal is just about the same as generating a new can from raw materials. There are approximately 75% savings in electricity bills when recycling aluminium, copper, and similar metals.
Add the fact that metals could come from other countries. Recycling can help lower the fuel consumption used in shipping. Metal recycling encourages us to be kind to the environment.
Other Things to Know about Recycling Scrap Metal in Australia
To understand scrap metal recycling 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.