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The Environmental Benefits of Metal Recycling

The important thing about metal is that it can be recycled and then reused almost indefinitely. It therefore allows for the preservation of finite resources. The truth is, recovering metal dates back many thousands of years - mainly because every resource had to be used and reused wherever possible. Today, and for many reasons, environmental incentives are an important aspect of the metal recycling industry. Needless to say, the environmental benefits are primary, but with the additional economic benefits to business, there is more incentive to make it all work.

According to industry statistics, some 45% of steel production around the world entails recycled metal. Indeed, the numbers are similar for aluminum and copper production. The good news is that recycling rates are ever increasing, meaning that millions and millions of tons of scrap metal are being recycled annually. Leaving the economic benefits aside, the other benefits are major and measurable: conservation of virgin natural resources; reduced energy consumption relative to production; and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions throughout the world.

Reduced energy consumption relative to production

The process of recycling scrap metal requires substantially less energy than the manufacturing process for new metal made from virgin ore. For instance, recycling, processing and then re-using recycled metal can save some 90% in energy (aluminum and copper are good examples here).

Worldwide conservation of virgin natural resources

Most metals can be recycled and then reused almost indefinitely. This means that finite natural resources (virgin metal ore) can be preserved and not used up. But there’s more - recycling one ton of steel will also conserve many tons of iron, coal and limestone needed for production.

Reductions in worldwide greenhouse gas emissions

When manufacturers recycle metal, greenhouse gas emissions are substantially reduced. In fact, some industry reports maintain that metal recycling can potentially reduce emissions by up to 500 million tons. In addition, using scrap metal accounts for some 95% less in mining waste.

For business, the economic benefits are significant

Scrap metal recycling has become an industry of it’s own, employing tens of thousands of people who are directly and indirectly involved. Interestingly, metal recycling industries create 10 times more economic revenue than the garbage and waste industries – it’s simply profitable.

Environmental benefits for an average homeowner

For an average residential homeowner, the environmental aspects of metal recycling are top-of-mind. For the most part, this effort is about “curb side” collection, with communities across the country collecting huge amounts of scrap metal that will eventually be processed and recycled.

When it comes to recycling obsolete dishwashers, fridges, and stoves, the potential for recovering valuable metals is huge. But it also benefits the environment because incineration is avoided; landfill is reduced; and valuable metals are re-used rather than manufactured from new.

While its true that metal recycling is driven by economics, most metal recycling companies are conscious about the environmental aspects, especially when dealing with metals like aluminum, copper, and iron – the metals that have the most impact on conserving energy and resources.
 

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