Metal is one of the worlds’ most important resources and one that is used in the manufacture of everything from cutlery and phones to cars and washing machines. Currently around 50% of the metal that we use in the UK comes from recycled material, but this means that we are still reliant on destructive mining methods for our remaining metal needs.

In this guide we’ll look at what metals can be recycled and take a look at the recycling process to understand what happens to scrap metal. Our goal at Aussie Scrap Metal is to help to recycle as much scrap metal as possible and reduce our impact on the environment.

Aussie Scrap’s metal recycling process

Firstly let’s take a look at the metal recycling process, the below is a basic overview of how this works and some of the processes may differ slightly depending on the metal that is being recycled.

metal recycling process - step 1

1. Collection
Before you can recycle scrap metal it needs to be collected. This is where a licensed scrap dealer like Aussie Scrap can help. We can arrange collection of scrap metal in Plymouth and the surrounding areas and can also arrange regular collections anywhere in the South West of England, North England and South Wales. 

metal recycling process - step 2

2. Sorting
Once the scrap has been collected by Aussie Scrap we will sort it into the different types of metal. This is done in a variety of ways including using magnets to separate ferrous and non-ferrous metals as well as manual sorting and other methods.

metal recycling process - step 3

3. Shredding
When the metal has been separated it then needs to be broken down into small pieces and this can be achieved by crushing, compacting and shredding. The aim of the process is to turn the scrap metal into workable pieces of metal that are much easier to manually handle.

metal recycling process - step 4

4. Melting and Purification
Now that the metal is easy to manage it can be moved on to the furnaces to be melted down. Depending on the metal this can take minutes or several hours to melt and then the purification process can start. This may involve electrolysis or magnets and helps to ensure the newly formed metal is free from impurities.

metal recycling process - step 5

5. Metal pouring
Once the metal has been purified it can be poured into a mold to form a new ingot of metal, depending on the process other metals and materials may be added to make the metal more durable. The new metal ingots can then be rolled out into sheets ready to be used in manufacturing.

metal recycling process - step 6

6. New products
With the new metal now ready for manufacturing it can be used to replace mined metals in the production of a huge range of products from building supplies and kitchen appliances to tin cans and computers.

Types of metal that can be recycled

Almost all metal can be recycled with the exception of products that contain toxic or hazardous materials such as car batteries, refrigeration tanks and domestic batteries. When it comes to recycling, some metals are a lot more common than others and we’ll cover these below and some common products that include them.

Ferrous metals

Heavy steel

For anything structural or where strength is needed then heavy steel is probably the core metal being used, this includes things like steel beams in construction, car frames, brake discs, exhausts and other non-contaminated metal products.

Light iron

Light iron is used in the production of washing machines, tumble dryers, fridges, and bikes and these are contaminated with other materials such as plastic and rubber.

Non-ferrous metals

Stainless steel

 

Stainless steel is used in kitchen appliances, cutlery, sinks, grills, saucepans and also widely used in the automotive and construction industries.

 

Lead

In the industrial sector lead is commonly used in everything from weights and batteries to solder and circuit boards. It is used in sheet metal for construction and many types of ball bearings.

Aluminium 

This is one of the most common metals and is used in everything from drinks cans and the wheels on your car to sports equipment and computers. A lightweight material, aluminium is very versatile and first found usage in the aerospace industry due to it’s strength to weight ratio.

Copper

Commonly found in heating and plumbing pipework as well as electrical wiring, copper is a great conductor of heat and electrical current. This is not as widespread a material as steel or aluminium so copper is a definite must when it comes to recycling.

Brass and Bronze

These are both copper alloys and are traditionally used in applications where they are exposed. This can include anything from door and window furniture to statues and works of art. They are somewhat similar to copper when it comes to recycling and are often melted down and purified into their constituent metals.

What can be achieved by recycling more metal?

As well as protecting the environment recycling scrap metal is an important part of the British economy and worth over £10 billion a year. It not only creates jobs and opportunities for people but it helps to reduce the UK’s total metal wastage and helps us to commit to European and Worldwide recycling targets.

By reducing the amount of metals that need to be mined the overall cost of metals is reduced as recycling costs are much lower than those of mining raw materials. Recycling creates jobs which help support local communities by giving them new opportunities.

Conservation of the planet’s natural resources is one of the biggest reasons to recycle metal. By mining less we can reduce our detrimental impact on the environment while greener recycling processes mean less emissions are produced in the production of new metals. Recycling really is a win, win solution for us all.