Scrap metal is a valuable and readily available resource, and over 60% of ferrous metal in appliances is recycled for use in different items. Metal can be melted and reused many times over without its properties being altered, which makes it the perfect material for recycling.
Currently, however, despite the many benefits that recycling brings, less than a third of all metal is collected and reused. Raising awareness of the advantages of metal recycling helps to encourage households to save sources of non-ferrous metals such as aluminum cans, tin cookware and copper wiring that are commonly found in the home.
Recycling scrap metal is then made easier through the expansion of curb-side collections and the use of widespread local recycling facilities. Recycling metal waste diverts it from landfills and incinerators, and companies that purchase scrap metal help to discourage the illegal dumping of waste.
In addition, reusing obsolete metal in manufacturing saves energy, reduces the use of natural resources, and cuts down on emissions of greenhouse gases.
Recycling Metal Brings Financial Rewards
Recycling and using scrap metal is also financially rewarding as it means that manufacturers can reduce their production costs. Sourcing materials from what is effectively a surface mine of scrap metal instead of having to finance the expensive extraction of fresh metal ore from the ground is much cheaper for them.
The financial incentive for metal recycling extends beyond saving money using recycled materials in industrial production. Domestic consumers can do their bit for the environment, and be financially rewarded, when they give their household metal waste to specialist recycling companies.
Aluminum cans are the most recycled metal items in the US, but broken copper piping, old brass fittings or mismatched stainless steel cutlery can all be recycled for money.
The Scrap Metal Industry Provides Jobs
On a larger scale, the thriving and widely spread scrap metal recycling industry contributes significantly to the economy.
As well as generating tax and reducing manufacturing costs, the industry provides thousands of green jobs to workers throughout the US. The industry is labor intensive, and a study on the economic impact of recycling undertaken by the Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) found that almost half a million jobs had been created by the scrap metal recycling industry.
This is partly due to the fact that scrap facilities, processors and brokers are located in every state in both urban and rural communities, providing well-paying jobs throughout the country.
Scrap Vehicles Supply The Steel Industry
Many of these jobs lie within the business of scrapping vehicles. Cars are the most recycled product in the world, and in the US, car recycling is the 16th largest industry, contributing $25 billion a year to the national GDP.
Over 12 million cars are dismantled every year, and 86% of the materials in each car is suitable for recycling or reuse. As cars become more complex and often cheaper to wreck than to repair, more of them are ending up in the scrapyard. Through the use of this abundant supply of recycled steel from scrapped vehicles, car manufacturers can reduce their costs by up to 60% and drastically reduce their carbon dioxide emissions.
Scrap vehicles are also the primary source of metal for the production of new steel products. The steel industry is highly dependent on scrap metal and has been recycling it for over 150 years, viewing discarded and disused steel obsolete as a vital raw material.
Metal has a potentially endless life cycle as it can be repeatedly recycled without any change taking place in its fundamental properties. This is one of the features that allows metal recycling to contribute to a highly sustainable and circular economy.
It also helps scrap metal industries to embrace further the principles of Zero Waste, where all material is reused and waste products are eliminated.
Reusing Resources Saves Energy
Metal is one of the easiest materials to recycle and yet can result in some of the largest energy savings.
The most energy intensive metal to produce is aluminum, which requires more electricity than any other metal. However, consumer products such as soda cans can simply be cleaned and melted without the further intensive use of power.
Using recycled aluminum instead of virgin bauxite to manufacture one ton of new soda cans saves 21,000 kw hours, resulting in an overall reduction of 95% in energy usage.
Recycling and repurposing metal uses less energy than the extraction and production of metal from virgin ore because scrap metal is already a plentiful and readily available source of metal. When it is recycled efficiently, the use of the energy-intensive industries of traditional mining, global shipping and metal refining is substantially reduced.
Using Scrap Metal Protects the Environment
Through saving energy, metal recycling also conserves natural resources and protects the environment.
Emissions from mining and processing metal have a negative effect on climate change, and cause pollution in the air, ground and water. The creation of ore mines can cause the destruction of local habitats through deforestation, explosions and drilling. Without intervention, the physical scars on the earth left by mining can cause geological instability and take hundreds of years to heal.
Once in operation, mines release large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and they can potentially contaminate the surrounding ground and water supplies with heavy metals and toxic minerals.
On a local level, encouraging more people to recycle metal can prevent the illegal dumping of scrap metal which is not only dangerous and unsightly, but can also release harmful materials into waste streams.
One of the major advantages of metal recycling is the fact that it protects the environment from unnecessary further damage. As a commercial enterprise, it provides thousands of jobs, and the processed metal it produces enables many other industries to cut costs in sourcing material and energy production.
In addition, because the industry is widespread and accessible, it’s easy and profitable for individuals to get involved.