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What Happens to Metal When it’s Recycled?

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A cartoon rendition of people working in a junkyard, sorting through scrap metal to be recycled to be reused and repurposed

You’ve probably wondered what happens to metal when it gets recycled. Well, the answer actually depends on what kind of metal you’re recycling. Not all metals are equal, and not all can be re-used the same way. Additionally, not all metal is recyclable, depending on how it was used previously, it may not be safe to reuse

Recycling metal is good for the environment, as it reduces landfill waste. This article will talk mostly about where the metal ends up and how. (We’ve written another article that’ll give you a detailed overview of the entire process of metal recycling that you can find here.)

Where Do Recycled Goods Start Their Journey?

Recycled metals start their journey at home or on the job site. Before they’re scrapped, they are being used for what they were likely initially designed for. When the time comes for them to be discarded, however, we’ve arrived at the most important step of the recycling process: taking the leftover metals to a place where they can be safely repurposed.

Next: How Are Metals Sorted?

When it comes to metal recycling, scrap can be sorted into two primary categories: ferrous and non-ferrous (iron-containing metals and non-iron-containing metals, respectively). Non-ferrous metals like copper are considered more valuable than ferrous metals at the recycler. 

From there, metals will be further sorted by type into separate piles based on type; for example, piles for nickel, brass, aluminum, etc. Most of this separation can actually be done by magnets, based on specific properties contained within each metal, but some of it is also completed by hand.

Three different types of metal that were metaled down into ingots, ready to be reshaped and formed into new products

Making Metals Usable Again

Once the impurities within them have been removed, all of the above metals can be melted down into what are known as ingots. Ingots are essentially small units, or “bricks” of metals that can be melted, combined, and re-shaped to form new material goods.

The transformation of old metal into ingots is what makes them valuable once again and ready for reuse. Ingots are easy to transport and store, so they can be shipped to wherever new metal products are being made.

How is New Metal Made?

Ingots are used to shape metal into new materials like bars or sheets through a re-heating and casting process. Once the metal is melted down, it is cast (or poured) into a mold before cooling. Once cool, the newly formed metal is ready for use at home, in stores, or on the construction site!

Have Metal to Recycle?

If you have metal at home or on the job site that you want to get rid of but aren’t sure if it’s recyclable, why not give our team a call today? Recycling metals is an important way that individuals and businesses can contribute to protecting the environment and growing the economy at the same time. To find out more about our recycling process at Federal Metals, get in touch.

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