Metal Recycling 101

Metals are versatile and carry certain significance in plenty of real-world applications. They are used in industrial production for manufacturing railways, ships, airplanes, cars, trucks, etc. Apart from this, they are used in crockery, cutlery, and packaging as well. With metal recycling, it is possible to reuse metal continuously without degrading its properties.

Why Recycle Metals?

Metals are priceless due to their ability to be recycled on a continual basis without impacting their properties. The value of scrap metal encourages people to collect it and sell it to recycling facilities.

Other than a monetary incentive, there is also the environmental factor. Metal recycling allows preserving natural resources and consumes lower amount of energy for processing than the manufacturing of new products with raw materials, The emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases are also lower with metal recycling. It is cost-effective and enables manufacturing to minimize their production cost, while at the same time; more jobs are created for the recycling process. 

Types of Metal

Metals are classified under non-ferrous and ferrous categories. Non-ferrous metals include tin, zinc, copper, lead, copper, and aluminum. On the other hand, ferrous metals involve combinations of carbon and iron. These include cast iron, wrought iron, alloy steel, and carbon steel. Metals, such as palladium, indium, silver, platinum, and gold are in high demand.

How Does Metal Recycling Work?

Metal recycling works like usual recycling. The entire process is divided into the following 8 steps.

  1. Collection

The most crucial step in metal recycling is collection. It entails the collection of metal-based materials. The process is performed in a way where customized containers are used for collecting metals.

Some business owners and people establish scrap yards. The purpose of these places is to promote metal collection, so people are motivated to collect various metals, and sell them at the scrap yards. Each metal is sold at a different price.

  1. Sorting

The next step is to initiate metal sorting, which separates the non-recycled form from the recyclable. At this point, the recycled metal’s quality matters a lot.

The use of original materials in the recycling process makes it possible to create a high-quality item or product. Thus, in the sorting process, a more stringent checkup is key to improve quality.

As a rule of thumb, the product should be made of at least 50% metal. Even when other metals are used for surrounding the metal, recycling makes sense when most of it contains metal. In case you have a product of which some part are made of metal, which is easily removable, separate the metal.

Scrap metal falls in two categories: it can be nonferrous or ferrous (e.g., steel). A magnet can be used to classify whether the metal is ferrous or not; iron is present in ferrous metals, which is why they are attracted to magnets. Therefore, it is easy to pull out the nonferrous materials.

Today, many facilities use sensors for identifying metals via x-ray and infra-red scanning. The processes for metal sensing include pyrometallurgy, hydrometallurgy, and biotechnology. When these technologies are used, the chances of metal recovery rates increase over time.

  1. Processing

Once sorting is completed, the next course of action is to squeeze or compact the metal. Recycled metals undergo squeezing and squashing processes through machines. These processes help to save space for the conveyor belts.

  1. Shredding

The shredding process is started once the metal is crushed. The metals are then split into smaller sheets or pieces for additional preprocessing. The small pieces have a larger surface to volume ratio, which allows melting them with minimal energy when compared to the bigger pieces of metal. Usually, aluminum is converted into sheets while steel is turned to steel blocks.

  1. Melting

Scrap metal is melted in a furnace. All the metals are placed inside a customized furnace created for melting that specific metal as per its properties. The melting process consumes a significant amount of energy. As compared to the energy needed for making metal from raw materials, the energy needed to melt here is significantly lower.

Heating is raised in the furnace to the exact temperatures required for melting the specific metal. Factors, such as the furnace’s heat degree, the metal’s volume in the furnace, and the size of the furnace can influence the melting time, which can range from minutes to hours.

  1. Purification

The end of melting process signals the start of the purification process. Different techniques are applied to purify the metals. Purification is conducted to make sure that the final product doesn’t contain any impurities and guarantees a high-quality product. Electrolysis is one of the techniques used for the purification of metals.

For other metals, robust magnetic systems separate recyclables from metals. Depending on the metal type, there are various purification methods available today.

  1. Melting/Solidifying

The next step is to use the conveyor belt to move the molten metal to a cooling chamber for cooling and solidifying it. At this point, the scrap metal is turned into a solid metal so it can be used in a real-world application. Chemicals are mixed into the molten metal to work on its properties, such as density.  The cooling stage is known for deciding the size and shapes of metals.

  1. Transportation

After the design and creation of the metal bars, packaging is performed for the final product as per its shape and size. Now, it will be transported to industries and to people who need the metal for personal or commercial usage.

The cycle continues after that.

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