Most types of metals can be recycled over and over again. Unfortunately, not even half of all metal is recycled in the United States, although that number is continuing to rise. Recycling metals does have its challenges, especially in rural areas where recyclables aren’t always collected separately. Below, you can learn more about the different metals and what happens during the process to turn them into reusable materials.
Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metals
Generally, metals are classified as either ferrous or non-ferrous. When a metal includes iron with carbon, it’s considered ferrous. Most iron and steel products fall under this category. Everything else falls under the non-ferrous category, which also includes precious metals, like gold and silver.
Collection and Sorting
The first step to recycling is collecting and sorting the different metals. Since most metals have a relatively high scrap value, businesses and consumers often take advantage of metal scrap removal in Chase, MI, instead of sending it to the landfill. For example, you may sell your old car to a scrap yard and get reimbursed for the metal it contains. Metals can also be sorted out from the regular trash to be recycled. Most recycling plants use magnets and other technology to separate normal trash mechanically. Of course, there’s room for improvement, especially when it comes to sorting non-ferrous metals that are not magnetic.
Once the metals are collected, they must be processed. For that, they are first sorted, shredded, and then melted. When the metal is shredded before it is melted, less energy is consumed during the recycling process. Melting metal also consumes less energy than starting with fresh raw materials. Lastly, the product must be purified to remove any contaminants. This is usually done using a method called electrolysis.
Finishing and Transport
By the end of the recycling process, aluminum is converted into small sheets, whereas steel is usually configured into blocks. Other metals may be shaped into bars because they’re easier to transport. Before the materials can be used, they must be properly cooled and solidified. Then, they get trucked to various factories where they’re used to make new products. When those products have reached the end of their useful life, the metals can be recycled again, and this process may be repeated indefinitely.
Presently, only about 30 percent of all metals are recycled due to the various challenges recycling represents. A large contributing factor is the lack of recyclable collections from consumer households. In areas where people only have regular trash service, consumers would have to take their recyclables themselves to a recycling center, which they are most likely not to do. Furthermore, some products make recycling difficult because they’re made of many different types of metals. Lastly, the technological advances haven’t maximized the trash sorting process thus far. So some recyclable materials aren’t being detected properly and still end up in landfills. Because of that fact, consumer recycling and sorting of items that can be reused is vital to having more of an impact within the metal reuse process.