If you are an environmentally conscious consumer, you probably work hard to recycle many items that you use every day, such as paper, cans, plastic, glass bottles, etc. But did you know that you can also recycle many metal objects such as metal lamps, equipment, home appliances, metal tools, metal hangers, foil, aluminum cans and even your old car? In fact, car recycling is a quickly growing segment of the recycling industry, and you can even get paid for recycling your old car, rather than having it take up space in your back yard, or waste away at a junk yard.
By recycling metal you are actively helping to lower energy waste, to reduce green house gas emissions, and to conserve precious natural resources needed to produce new metal products. Today, in the US alone, according to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) there are “150 million metric tons of scrap materials recycled annually including: 81.6 million tons of iron and steel, 5 million tons of aluminum, 1.8 million tons of copper and 2 million tons of stainless steel”, and you can help these statistics grow by choosing to recycle your own old metal products.
How does scrap metal recycling work?
Depending on what metal product is being recycled, there are a number of ways the recycling process can take place. If you are purchasing new home appliances or large metal equipment, you can ask the company that you purchase from to take away the old appliances, and they will take care of recycling it for you. You can also take smaller metal items that you have to a nearby metal recycling center and they will be happy to take them and will even pay you for bringing them in. The same goes for old cars. Once the cost of repairing your old car exceeds its value, it has reached the end of its life and a metal recycling company will pay you and take it away to be recycled. Interestingly, when it comes to old metal hangers, they are typically not accepted at the recycling facilities, but you can still recycle them by donating them to your local dry cleaners, who will happily take them in.
At recycling facilities, metal products are dismantled, compressed into flat shapes for ease of processing, and separated into 3 categories: iron and steel, nonferrous metal, and non-metallic scrap. The metals are then shredded into smaller pieces, while the non-metallic scrap is dumped into a landfill. Finally the shredded metal is shipped off to other facilities where it gets reused in new products.
Facts on Recycling Aluminum Products (Cans)
-Aluminum is a highly durable, long lasting metal: 2/3 of aluminum ever produced are still in use today.
-Over 50% of aluminum cans produced are recycled in as little as 60 days.
- According the ISRI, recycling aluminum conserves up to 8 tons bauxite ore and 14 megawatt hours of electricity.
- It takes 95% less energy to produce a new can from a recycled one. This means than 20 recycled cans are produced using the energy to produce one can from virgin aluminum ore.
-When you throw away an aluminum can, you actually waste as much energy as pouring out half of that can’s volume of gasoline.
Facts on Recycling Steel Products (ELVs)
- Cars are the most recycled consumer product. In fact, in EU car manufactures are responsible by law for the disposal of the vehicles they manufacture through the mandatory recycling and take-back programs.
-Every year the steel industry in the US recycles more than 14 million tons of steel from old cars (ELVs), which is equivalent to about 13 million vehicles.
-Steel can be recycled repeatedly without loss of quality or strength, which makes it the most recycled material in the world.
-Steel used to make car bodies is typically 25% recycled.
-The Motor and Equipment Manufactures Association reports that over 76% of each scrap vehicle is recycled.
- According to the ISRI, recycling one ton of steel conserves 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone.