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Recycling Metals: An Endless Process

Posted by Junk King on Sep 22, 2020 8:00:00 AM



A fascinating fact about common metals is that they can be recycled almost indefinitely. This is especially true for iron, steel, and aluminum products. 

All things being equal, almost every kind of metal can be recycled again and again without the degradation of their properties. So, why don't we recycle more metal?

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Thinking About Metal and Recycling

Although almost every kind of metal that ends up in the waste stream can be recycled repeatedly without any degradation of it's properties. Yet, according to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) only about 30 percent of metal is currently recycled.

This is disturbing since we generate hundreds of millions of tons of waste metal in the form of trash, junk, and consumer goods made with various metals.  

According to The Balance SMB

"The current overall metal recycling rate of around 30 percent is not acceptable, given the recyclability of almost every kind of metal, and challenges remain with respect to how to recapture more material for recycling. The expansion of community recycling programs and public awareness help in this regard.

Another important reason for the low recycling rate has to do with the design of various metal products. The growing complexity of various modern products and their material mix makes recycling increasingly difficult. For instance, a simple mobile phone can contain as many as 40 different elements. So, extracting every kind of material from a mobile phone and reusing them in the production of new products makes it difficult."

Below are some additional facts about metal and recycling:

  • Nearly 40 percent of global steel production uses recycled steel.
  • In the U.S., about 42 percent of raw steel is made of recycled materials.
  • The United States uses almost 100 million steel and tin cans every day.
  • Steel and iron are the most recycled materials in the world.
  • Almost 400 million tons of metal are recycled worldwide each year.
  • The single most recycled consumer product in the U.S. is the aluminum can.

When it comes to consumers and recycling, all the attention seems to be on plastics, aluminum cans, and paper. And, while these are certainly some of the major players in the overall recycling universe, metals are the often overlooked "power" players. 


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A Graphic Description of Metal Recycling

We've created this infographic that illustrates a number of aspects of metal recycling and some interesting factoids you may not have known.


metal recycling

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A Closer Look at Metals for Recycling

Metals are generally grouped as ferrous or non-ferrous metals. For recycling purposes, aluminum, although it is technically a non-ferrous metal, is practically in a class by itself.

Ferrous metals contain iron. Anything that a magnet will stick to has a ferrous metal in it. And steel is probably the most well known combinations of iron and carbon. Some common ferrous metals include stainless steel, carbon steel, alloy steel, wrought iron, and cast iron.

The common non-ferrous metals include copper, lead, zinc, and tin. And aluminum, of course. In addition, all precious metals are non-ferrous. That would include gold, platinum, silver, titanium, iridium, and palladium.

While most all metals can be recycled repeatedly without altering their properties, steel is the single most recycled material on the planet. After steel comes aluminum,  then copper, silver, brass, and gold.

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How Well Do You Know Your Metals?

While all metals can be recycled, a few are much more common and familiar than most of the others. Armed with a small magnet, it's easy to separate out the ferrous from the non-ferrous metal products. But then what?

Here's a brief "cheat sheet" to help you out there:

Silvery and lightweight metal. Extensively used for packaging, beverage cans, and aerospace.

Brass and Bronze
Copper alloys using either zinc or tin. Commonly used for ornamental objects.

A reddish metal that tarnishes green. Used for pennies, wire, and pipes.

Cast Iron
Primarily iron combined with carbon and silicon. Used for frying pans and kitchen tools.

A silver-colored metal made primarily of iron and carbon. Used cans, appliances, and tools.

Stainless Steel
A steel alloy using chromium that doesn’t rust like untreated steel.

A silvery metal used to make pewter. “Tin” cans are actually tin-coated steel cans.

Rare Metals
Includes elements such as titanium, lithium, molybdenum, and tantalum.

The good news is, when it comes to recycling, you don't really need to know what kind of metal you're disposing of aside from ferrous metals and aluminum since they are the easiest to have recycled for most people.

Your Environmentally-Friendly Choice for Junk Hauling

Junk King is not one of those impersonal corporate entities that use nice-sounding slogans about  environmentally responsibility. At Junk King, we are wholly committed to recycling as much of the junk we pick up as possible.

In fact, we founded Junk King as the first recycling-based junk removal operation back in 2005 and everything we to today, from pick up to hauling to disposal, is done with the goal of recycling everything and anything we can.

As our trucks travel throughout the country picking up unwanted items, our teams pack the trucks so that the items can be unpacked quickly and efficiently.

The goal is to be efficient in our operations, and keep our landfills free of unnecessary items.

Our professional and insured junk removal team will call 15 minutes before we arrive on site and we’ll give you a free estimate based on how much room your junk takes up in our truck. You point and we haul your unwanted items into our junk removal trucks, with no hidden fees.

We can handle most ANYTHING and EVERYTHING, except hazardous waste.

It’s as simple as 1, 2, 3. You make an appointment by booking online above or by calling 1.888.888.JUNK (5865).


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Topics: scrap metal, e-waste recycling, appliance recycling, metal recycling, junk metal recycling

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