The second life of metal: What was once considered waste becomes a resource?

December 10, 2012


Möbius ribbon, the symbol of recycling, can be found everywhere. It shows that a product is made of recycled materials. For metal recyclers this logo means bringing scrap metal back to a state of raw material and giving it a second life.

The benefit of metal recycling is that metal can be recycled over and over without losing its strength. In addition, recycling metals preserves the environment by reducing mining, extracting, refining, and transporting of ore, which are destructive and polluting activities.

The recycling process starts with scrap metal. Scrap metals are collected from different sources and separated by type and composition, to keep like metals together. After that scrap metal is sent to a metal recycling plant.

The metal recycling plant examines scrap metal to make sure it is correctly separated by the types of metals, because each metal has a different melting point and is heated in different devices. Once the metals are molten, they are molded into small bars and are allowed to cool. Metal bars are sent to manufacturers where they are turned into new products.
The most commonly recycled metals are steel and aluminum. Recycled aluminium is transformed into cans, wrapping paper, garden furniture and car parts. Recycled steel is used for making engine parts, steel structures and cans. Presently, 65% of steel products are made from recycled steel.
Metal decomposition time is fairly long. For example, steel needs 100 years to disintegrate; aluminium cans needs 200 to 500 years; tin cans need anywhere from 10 to 100 years. This is the reason why tin cans, cans, beer caps, aluminium paper, foil and plates, metal lid and paint buckets that are used in households should be recycled instead of going to landfills. The same thing should be done with debris from construction, renovation and demolition, 90% of which can be recovered or recycled.

In conclusion, not all the materials are recyclable, but metal is, so why not to give it a second life and to help avoid waste, save energy and support climate protection?