Metal scrap removal and recycling is one of the oldest and most efficient forms of recycling. Because metal can be recycled over and over without losing its properties, it is one of the most commonly recycled materials in the U.S., with steel, aluminum, copper, silver, brass, and gold topping the list of most commonly recycled metals.
Collecting Metals for Recycling
Pots and pans are often made of aluminum and other valuable metals. If you have cookware that you no longer use, you can bring them to a metal recycling center to see how much money you can get for them. Because there are other materials used to make pots and pans, they are considered “dirty aluminum.” You will make more money from them by removing the plastic or rubber handles before scraping them.
Sorting, Processing, Purifying
Once metals arrive at the recycling center, the first task is to sort them. Ferrous metals such as iron and steel are easy to sort using magnets to pull them away from other materials. Nonferrous metals, which are generally more valuable and therefore more likely to be recovered for recycling, are identified by their color and weight. The only metals not fit for recycling are those that are considered hazardous materials, such as mercury, or metals contaminated by radiation.
Sorted metal is then shredded to make it easier to divide, store, and melt. The melted metal is further purified using an electrolysis process to force impurities to rise or sink, separating them from the actual metal element. Finally, the processed and purified metal is made into sheets or blocks for reuse.
Steel is the most recycled material in the world, used in so much industry in the United States that smelters which recycle metals are concentrated in regions that manufacture steel goods. Recycled metal is used in manufacturing cars, appliances, aircraft, ductwork, home fixtures, and many other products. Precious metals (including copper, silver, brass, and gold) are used in electronics as well as jewelry. Many food and beverage packages are made from recycled metals. The recycling process is so efficient that metals you drop off for recycling today may be back on the shelves of your grocery store in as little as two months from now.
Metal recycling is a large industry in the United States, employing tens of thousands of people. The low cost of recycled metals helps lower the prices of manufactured goods. All of these benefits, however, depend on consumers like you to turn in your unneeded metals, appliances, vehicles and other items containing metal to be brought into the recycling process.