How Is Metal Recycled and Why Should It Be Recycled?
Metals are versatile commodities that can be used in various ways, and they can be recycled multiple times without altering their natural properties. Aluminium and steel are the most popular recyclable metals. This article will understand how metal is recycled and what the benefits are.
How Is Metal Recycled?
The process of metal recycling is quite similar to any other recycling process. The first step involves sorting the metals depending on their properties. For this, you must possess a basic understanding of metals and their distinctive properties. This understanding significantly helps in the whole recycling process. The following are the steps that will help you gain the answer to the underlying question: How is metal recycled?
- Accumulation of Metal
It involves the collection of all the metal materials. In this, people use containers that are specially designed to collect metals. There are some businesses that have built scrap yards that encourage people to collect metals and be paid to dispense them in the yard. Based on the type of metal, the prices vary. These yards are the central place where metals are collected.
- Metal Assortment
Once metals have been gathered, the next step is to sort them. In this process, recyclable and non-recyclable metals are separated. It ensures the quality of the whole recycling process. In an automated recycling process, sensors and magnets are harnessed to separate metals. This step is imperative as the scrappers can enhance the value of their recycled materials by sorting clean metal from the dirty ones.
In processing, metals are squeezed and shredded using a machine. Shredding is done to make the melting process more efficient, as small shredded metals would hold a large surface-to-volume ratio. Moreover, shredded metal can be melted using less energy. Generally, aluminium is melted into small sheets, whereas steel is converted into blocks.
Shredded metal scraps are then melted in a large furnace. Different furnaces are used to melt different sorts of metal. This is a highly energy-consuming process. However, energy used to recycle metals is significantly less than the energy used to manufacture metals from raw materials. Furthermore, depending on the furnace size, metal volume, and degree of heat, this process could last from a few minutes to a couple of hours.
Purification is done to ensure that there are no contaminants in the metal. Electrolysis is the most popular purification method.
Once the metals are purified and the quality is ascertained, they are cooled and solidified. They are then transported to different factories where they are used to produce various products.
These are the steps involved in the metal recycling process. Now that you have understood how metal is recycled, let’s understand why it is beneficial to recycle metals.
Benefits of Metal Recycling
The following are some prominent benefits of metal recycling:
- The Benefit to the Environment
Metal recycling is an effective way to conserve natural resources. The production of new metal emits a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions and consumes more energy than making products using recycled metal. These harmful emissions contribute to detrimental climate change and increasing air pollution in urban cities. According to reports, recycling metal may reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 300-500 million tons. Furthermore, using recycled metal instead of virgin raw materials produces 97% less waste and uses 40% less water.
- Tremendous Economic Benefits
According to the National Institute of Health, recycling metals generates 36 times more jobs than sending the scraps to an incinerator or landfill. Moreover, the National Recycling Coalition says that the recycling industry adds up to USD 236 billion every year and employs around a million workers all across the US.
- Massive Energy Conservation
When products are manufactured using virgin metal ore, the whole process uses a significant amount of energy. However, when you use recycled metal, there is tremendous energy conservation. The following is the amount of energy you save when you use recycled metals:
o Aluminium – 92%
o Steel – 56%
o Copper – 90%
While almost every kind of metal can be recycled, a mere 30% of it is recycled, accounting for 400 million tons of metal across the globe. Evidently, there needs to be growing awareness with regards to the benefits of metal recycling. Furthermore, by understanding how metal is recycled and what benefit it renders, people would be mindful of how they dispose of scrap metals.
Another important reason that contributes to a low recycling rate is the designing of metal products. The modern production complexities, along with material mix, make the recycling process more difficult. While modern recycling technologies can sort different types of metals, there is still the need for effective technologies to segregate non-ferrous metals. On the whole, along with public awareness, the global recycling industry needs staunch technological aid in order to thrive.