Ten reasons for recycling metal

Recycling metal

Recycling metal plays a vital role in preserving primary resources and the future of our planet, says the British Metals Recycling Association.

Scrap metals are secondary raw materials whose use reduces the demand for precious natural resources needed to make new metal compounds such as iron ore in steelmaking, nickel in stainless steel or alumina and bauxite in aluminium smelting.

For example, every tonne of recycled steel saves 1.5 tonnes of iron ore; 0.5 tonnes of coal; 70 per cent of the energy; 40 per cent of the water and 75 per cent of CO2 emissions.

The recycling of copper requires up to 85 per cent less energy than primary production. Around the world, this saves 40 million tonnes of CO2. Recycling aluminium uses 95 per cent less energy than producing aluminium from raw materials and saves 97 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions produced in the primary production process.

As part of its ongoing Metal Goals campaign, the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) has highlighted ten reasons to recycle metal.

Metal comes from the Earth. About 80 per cent of all the known chemical elements in the world are categorised as metals.

Metal is 100 per cent recyclable. It is permanent and it can be recycled forever. It contributes to the circular economy, avoiding landfill, as well as saving the destruction of natural habitats caused by the mining of metal ore.

Recycling one tonne of steel can save one and half tonnes of iron ore from being mined. Iron is a metal, but steel is a man-made alloy. Steel is made by mixing iron and carbon together.

Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (known as WEEE) generally covers products that have a plug or need a battery, such as fridges, vacuum cleaners, and computer equipment. It is important WEEE is recycled correctly. Not only does WEEE contain metal, it can also contain lithium and lithium-ion batteries that are dangerous and if damaged the batteries can cause fires.

The metal in your mobile phone could be recycled into an Olympic medal. Tokyo’s Olympic medals were made from 78,985 tons of recycled electronic devices, including mobile phones. It can contain gold, lithium, aluminium, cobalt, copper, lead, nickel, silver, and zinc. One tonne of smartphones contains 300 times more gold than one tonne of gold ore.

You can get paid for your scrap metal. Ensuring you have the appropriate identification, you can go to a metal recycler and be paid by BACS, cheque or eTransfer. Cash for your scrap is illegal, however, so do report it if you are offered it.

Recycling steel uses 70 per cent less energy than mining and refining ore. Steel is the most widely used metal. It is easily identifiable as it is magnetic and can be easily separated from general waste. It is used to make many items including cars, bridges and playpark equipment.

Recycling metal avoids sending a permanent material to landfill. Thanks to modern day efficient waste processes very little metal will go to landfill. However, via a process called ‘urban mining’, which involves materials like metal and WEEE previously discarded in general waste, being reclaimed from the ground, thus helping to ensure even more metal can be recycled.

Recycling metal emits 80 per cent less CO2 than production from raw materials. It is credentials like this that make metals recycling a key driver in the Government achieving its net zero targets.

An aluminium drinks can could be back in a supermarket as a new drinks can, 60 days after it was originally bought. Aluminium doesn’t have to be a drink can in its next life, it could be aeroplane parts, a beer keg or foil for your lunchtime sandwich.

“We support any action the Government takes to encourage recycling,” said James Kelly, CEO of the BMRA. “Metal is everywhere, including in people’s houses and sheds. If anyone has had a recent clear out or work on their house, it is likely they have metal items such as bikes, radiators, copper pipes, brass door handles. The list is endless”.

Global Recycling Day is on March 18.

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