Dumpsters for Scrap Metal
Scrap metal recycling is an increasingly recognized and valuable resource worldwide. Unlike the common perception of scrap as useless, metal can be reused and repurposed multiple times without any loss in quality. This makes it a highly sustainable material compared to limited recyclability of plastics. Moreover, recycling scrap metal helps reduce the need for environmentally damaging mining processes and prevents materials from ending up in landfills.
The scrap metal recycling process involves recovering and processing recyclable metals, including raw metals, alloys, and materials from end-of-life products. Various methods are used for recycling, such as curbside pick-up, drop-off recycling facilities, take-back schemes, and local scrap yards with a long history of repurposing metals.
In 2019, the US alone recycled approximately 56 million metric tons of scrap metal, highlighting the scale and value of the recycling process compared to paper or wooden materials.
There are several compelling reasons to recycle scrap metal. Firstly, recycling is beneficial for the environment and the planet, as it promotes the reuse of existing materials instead of extracting new ones. Additionally, recycling and reusing metals are more cost-effective compared to extracting raw materials and processing them, resulting in savings across the board.
Scrap metal recycling encompasses two main categories: ferrous metals and non-ferrous metals. Ferrous metals, such as cast iron and stainless steel, are iron-based and widely used in appliances, furniture, construction materials, and transportation parts. Non-ferrous metals, including tin, copper, nickel, lead, and aluminum, hold higher value as they can be endlessly recycled without losing their chemical properties. While non-ferrous metals account for only one-tenth of the metals recycled in the US, they contribute to half of the overall scrap metal value.
Various metal products can be recycled, such as domestic appliances, aluminum cans, batteries (including lead batteries that require specialized recycling facilities), and e-waste containing valuable metals like gold, platinum, and lithium.
Certain types of scrap metals cannot be recycled, including radioactive metals like plutonium and uranium, toxic metals such as mercury, metal containers with residual materials like paint or motor oil cans, and metals considered public property.
The scrap metal recycling process typically involves collection and separation of metals, preparation through cutting or shredding, melting and refining to remove impurities, and solidifying the metal into new shapes or forms suitable for reuse.
Recycling scrap metal offers several benefits. Firstly, it helps preserve the planet by reducing the need for mining, which depletes natural resources and consumes significant energy. Recycling steel and tin cans, for example, saves 60 to 74% of the energy required compared to using raw materials. Additionally, the scrap metal industry creates job opportunities and contributes to sustainable manufacturing, as approximately 70% of materials processed by the recycling industry are used by US manufacturing firms. Recycling also saves money by providing cheaper and easier-to-source materials, and it allows individuals to profit from selling unwanted scrap metal. Finally, embracing scrap metal recycling and other sustainable practices aligns with the United Nations’ sustainability goals outlined in 2015.