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Have you ever stopped to ponder about what happens to your soda can after you’ve tossed it into a recycling bin?  It’s the start of a long recycling journey for the disposed soda can! The can, along with other metal waste, is carted away to a recycling center where it is put into the non-ferrous metal category. It is then squashed flat and transported to a place where they will melt the metal so that it can be a recycled into a can again or is infused into another metal product. That’s the recycling process in a nutshell.

101 of Metal Recycling: Benefits and Process 

The good news is that metal doesn’t lose its durability even after being shredded or melted. Not just soda cans, but unused electrical appliances, old wires, metal bottle caps and other metal items are sorted, melted and converted into raw materials. These are then used to manufacture a number of metal products. The parts of bigger products like automobiles, airplanes, construction materials and locomotives are also recovered and recycled. Large metal surfaces are broken down, crushed or shredded into smaller parts.

The process of melting virgin metals generally consumes huge amounts of fuel, but recycling metal helps save fuel. Recycling steel saves 75 percent of the energy required for using virgin steel, says the Bureau of International Recycling. It helps reduce the emission of carbon dioxide by 58 percent. Recycling metals keeps metal waste away from landfills and incinerators where they get converted into toxic waste and pollute the air, water and soil.

If you’re an avid recycler or just someone who wants to know the behind-the-scenes story of metal recycling, here’s an info-graphic that illustrates the step-by-step process.

The proper processing of metals is important so that the quality of the recycled products can be maintained. For this reason, the metals have to be carefully sorted and sent either to the ferrous or non-ferrous category. At some stages, manual sorting is done to ensure that no piece slips through the cracks. This guarantees that every piece of metal that’s sent to be recycled is properly used.

Metal waste makes up a significant percentage of the total waste stream. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data reveals that aluminum and steel made up almost 8 percent of the total waste generation in 2012. That’s a considerable number if you think about the millions of tons of metal waste that’s generated year after year. Recycling metal items can be a big step towards reducing waste.

How can you be a part of the recycling process? Make a difference by dropping off unwanted metal items lying around your home or office in a recycling bin or at a center rather than in a trash can and encourage your family and friends to do the same. Recycling companies like Sims Metal Management have made recycling easier by opening recycling units all over the country. What’s more, you can even sell scrap metal at one of these centers. The scrap metal is shipped to recycling industries to be processed and converted into items that are useful.

It’s you who can help contribute towards a greener planet. After all, the action you take can help make the metal recycling process a successful one.

By Anne Staley



Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Tim Yaotome says:

    I find it great that recycling metal can help prevent it from becoming toxic waste and pollute the Earth’s air, fire, and water. If I owned a car part manufacturing company, I would find a scrap metal recycling facility after reading your article. They can help keep the factory clean. Also, it can help other factories get their raw materials for less cost too.

  • Ellie Davis says:

    I was not aware that even the bigger parts of cars and airplanes can be recycled. My husband just inherited a junkyard, and as incredible as that may sound, he does not know what to do with it. I will suggest him to recycle all the metals to make sure they can be reused.

  • It’s awesome that scrap metal doesn’t lose its durability if you recycle it and sort it back into its raw materials. My brother has a pile of scrap in his back yard, and he wants to use it to make a sculpture to impress his house guests. I’ll share this information with him so that he knows that he can get that metal recycled to use it again.

  • Greta James says:

    Wow, thank you for pointing out that 75 percent of the energy is saved by using recycled metal compared to new steel. I was talking to my brother yesterday, and he was talking about all the scrap metal that is around is house from his project to build a barn in his yard. I wonder if he should look for a place to recycle it instead of throwing it away!

  • It’s interesting to know that recycling metal consumes significantly less energy and produces much fewer emissions than the process of making fresh metal. We’re thinking of going to my parents’ house this spring and helping them clean out a lot of junk they’ve accumulated over the years. Recycling what we can instead of throwing it away sounds like a much more environmentally friendly way of going about it.

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