Last updated on April 4th, 2018
Metal recycling process does not differ significantly to the recycling process of other materials. However, metal recycling process has a great advantage. It can be repeated over and over without altering the properties of the metals recycled.
Metal recycling has several environmental benefits. Not only it is fast and easy, but it protects the environment, reduces exploitation of energy and may also generate an income.
Find out the 7 most common types of metal for recycling, how to identify them and how you can generate income from them.
The 7 key steps of metal recycling process
Collection marks the first step of metal recycling. The only thing necessary is to collect all the materials made of metal. The existence of collection points and of specially designed containers dedicated for metal collection assists significantly collection efforts and encourages people to participate.
Scrap metal yards are the most common collection points. People just deliver their metals for recycling and receive an amount of money relevant to the metals value. Use our recycling center locator to find your nearest scrap yard.
After collection, bulk metals need to be sorted based on the type of metal they are made of. This step is crucial since it separates the materials into streams that will be led for recycling.
For example, a magnet is used to remove steel materials, whereas copper materials undergo visual inspection and get graded accordingly. As for aluminum products, they are tested for moisture content and quality.
Sorting is subject to strict quality rules. This aims at ensuring good quality of materials that will be recycled since only then the new products will be of high quality.
Following sorting, compaction machines are used to reduce the volume of separated metals. In that way it becomes easier to store and transfer the metals to the smelting facilities.
Having reached the smelting facilities metals are checked for radiation and then led to shredders which cut them down into small pieces.
This process increases significantly the active surface of metals, requiring less energy to melt compared to that when being in large pieces.
The shredded metals are led to a furnace where melting takes place. The temperature of the furnace is appropriate for the type of metal it will be processed. Different furnaces are used to melt different metals.
Despite consuming high amounts of energy, melting of metals consumes much less energy compared to metal production from raw materials.
6. Purification and solidification
Following melting, purification takes place in order to achieve a final product of high quality. There are several methods used to purify metals, with the use of powerful magnets and electrolysis to be some of the most commonly used. The purification method depends on the type of metal recycled.
After purification, the molten metal is poured into molds to form ingots, which may weigh up to 20 tons. If necessary, this is the point where chemicals are added to the molten metal to make it acquire any desired properties.
Then the metal ingot is transferred to a cooling chamber where it is left to cool down and solidify. It is during solidification that the shape and the size of metals are made.
Following solidification, the ingots are ready to be manufactured into new products. They can be manufactured on site or be forwarded to factories, entering again the supply chain and closing the metal recycling cycle.
Recycled metals are typically used in manufacture of cans, building materials, appliances, cars, tubes, aluminum foil, etc.