Due to the increasing demands and overconsumption of things, Recycling has become an important part of our world today. Almost every industry, if applicable, try to adopt the policy of Three R’s of recycling i.e. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Recycling helps cost reduction and efficient management of resources. We are aware of the usage of recycled papers and plastics, but many of us are unaware that the metals can also be recycled. In this article, we’ll see the importance, the process, the usage, the benefits, and the disadvantages of recycling metals.
Importance of Recycling the Metals
Climate change, global warming and sustainable use of resources are some of the important issues of the 21st century. To make this world a safer and healthier place we are constantly searching for alternatives that’ll reduce harm to our environment.
Hence in this regard, there are so many reasons as to why is it important to recycle metals. The recycling of metal reduces environmental pollution, it saves precious resources, it reduces the waste which occupies the landfills and more importantly, it saves from the destruction of the natural habitat of animals when the new ore is mined.
The scrap material is a continuous resource. Recycled metal can be re-melted and reshaped as many times as we want. It is a kind of resource which never gets depleted. What is the harm than to use it again and again?!
Moreover, the production of new metals is a costly affair. It comes with a burden on the pocket and environment as well. Metal production releases a good amount of greenhouse gasses, which in turn create respiratory problems and contribute to climate change.
Advantages of Recycling Metals
There are numerous benefits of recycling metals. The most prominent ones are as follows.
- Resource preservation
Metal can be reused by recycling without losing any of its properties. Rather than mining the new ore, used materials can be used again. Hence the resources which are used in the production of new metals and mining such as coal and iron core can be saved.
- Environment Protection
The extraction of ore involves mining. And mining is such a disastrous thing for the environment. It causes the loss of habitat, pollutes the surrounding air, soil and water. The toxic effect of mining persists not for days or months, but for decades.
Recycling involves reduced energy consumption, therefore, there are lesser chances of harmful greenhouse gas emissions to the environment.
Also, the recycling of metals does not cause ground, air, and water pollution on such massive scales that mining does.
- Energy consumption
The amount of energy used in mining, extraction, purification and shaping of new ores of metals is very large. Whereas, recycling the same materials needs a lot less energy. As an example- According to the website Fedralmetals, it takes 60% less energy to recycle scrap steel than to mine for a new iron, 90% less energy to recycle copper, and an astounding 95% less energy to recycle old aluminum.
- Economic Benefits
Let’s be honest, everyone wants to save money- be it a person, a company or a nation. Companies recycle the metals without any shame in order to save money. Governments save production costs and put money into recycling so that they can invest in the right places.
Not only recycling saves money, but it generates as well. Recycling can contribute to around tens of billions of dollars in a country’s GDP.
According to a website Ierek, a study by the Scrap Metal Recycling Institute found that nearly half a million jobs had been created by the scrap metal recycling industry alone.
Apart from the great benefits, there are a few disadvantages of recycling metals as well.
- The collection of the metals and its sorting takes much more time and sometimes becomes expensive as well.
- An often occurring disadvantage of recycling is that the recycled metals can be impure, and of degraded quality.
- Metals like steel and aluminum need manual sorting and separation.
- Used materials need a heavy transport system in order to reach the recycling facilities.
- Construction of the sorting facilities and factories is costly.
- The recycling facilities have substandard working conditions, which often expose the workers to harmful toxins.
What kind of metals can be Recycled?
The most commonly recycled metals are iron and steel. But the recyclable metals are divided into two categories-
i) Non-ferrous metals- Metals that do not contain iron come in this category. Lead, aluminium, tin and copper come in this category. All can be recycled.
ii) Ferrous metals- Cast iron and steel come in this category. These are magnetic materials hence, they can find applications usually in cars and other appliances.
Both ferrous and non-ferrous metals can be recycled easily. Ferrous metals are scrapped in greater quantities, whereas non-ferrous metals are worth higher due to the large demands.
Process of Recycling
The metal recycling process is similar to regular recycling processes. First, the metals are separated and sorted according to their properties, and then the further process goes on.
Following are the steps which are followed in the recycling process of metals-
Step 1- Collection
Step 2- Sorting
Step 3- Processing
Step 4- Shredding
Step 5- Melting and Purification
Step 6- Purification
Step 7- Melting and Solidifying of the Metal
Step 8- Transportation of the Metal Bars
Usage of recycled metals
Recycled material finds multiple applications in different fields.
Furniture- Recycled metals are often used in home furnishings. People use such metal in tables, chairs, and sofas to make them more durable.
Industries- Metal is heavily used in industrial applications like building up new materials, plumbing and making appliances from coffee makers to washing machines.
Medical use- There is a great utility of recycled metals in the healthcare industry, as the metal alloys produced from them are hygienic and easy to maintain. Surgical instruments, equipment, hospital beds can be made with such metal.
Vehicles- Very often, scrap metal such as steel and zinc, can be helpful in making the vehicles and their component parts.
Metal is also used for paint.
Construction- From roofing to building foundations, recycled iron and steel are used in the construction industry.
Electrical Appliances- Without a doubt, recycled copper is used in making products like electrical pipes and wires. It has excellent properties as well.
Batteries- Lead is used in batteries. It is one of the most recycled metals in the world.
Metal is one of those few materials which can be recycled without damaging its original properties. Continual recycling has great benefits, and there is always a demand for the usage of recycled metals. We saw why is it important to recycle metals above. Hence there’s no harm in using recycled metals as they cut cost and are sustainable to the environment.