How Does Scrap Metal Recycling Work?
in Metal Recycling by Dave

Scrap Metal Recycling

One of the biggest recycling sectors the world over for the sole reason that virtually all metals can be recycled over and over again, many who are interested in such a move often wonder how it actually works. The process of scrap metal recycling is so foreign that we tend to wonder how it’s even possible and how our approach can play a role in making it happen.


How big is the metal recycling industry?


Over 400 million tonnes of metal is recycled each year and the industry is worth billions of dollars (in Australia alone). Operators vary from small, family-owned businesses to international companies. The industry is actually structured like a pyramid, with smaller independent businesses collecting the scrap and then passing it onto major reprocessing facilities.


There are a number of tasks that such a facility may undertake, including:

  • Shearing – Many pieces of scrap are simply too big to be easily processed, so it might be necessary to reduce the size of some items by cutting.
  • Baling & Compacting – In some instances, scrap might need to be moved to larger facilities. It’s usually baled and compacted to aid transport.
  • Shredding – Using highly efficient shredding machines, waste goods (such as vehicles) are reduced down to fist-sized lumps of metal.
  • Hot Air Blasting – A lot of metals are coated with a lacquer that needs to be removed prior to recycling; this process burns the layer off.
  • Collecting, Weighing & Sorting – Someone needs to go through and sort all of the scrap according to its metal-type and purity.
  • Media Separation – Unwanted waste materials can sometimes be found in the mix, which need to be removed prior to recycling.


Which metals can be recycled?


As we’ve already touched on, most metals can be recycled. However, some are more commonly found than others. Aluminium and stainless steel seem to be the most prevalent, but this also means that they are worth the least amount based on weight. Copper is quite a rare and valuable metal that will fetch a hefty profit. Brass, lead and even items like radiators fall somewhere in the middle.


But how does it actually work?


We still haven’t really touched on how scrap metal recycling actually works. It’s basically through heat. Metal is cleaned and placed in a furnace to melt. The resulting solution is checked for purity and, if needed, is exposed to additional metals or gases in order to adjust its chemical composition. The solution is then poured out of the furnace and formed into specific shapes.


If you are interested in pursuing scrap metal recycling, either as a hobby or perhaps even a business venture, we hope that the information provided above has helped you to understand how it actually works. Whilst you will play only a small role in the process (collecting scrap that nobody wants), it is a vital part of the process and determines whether it’s a success or not.