Metals are essential, versatile and can be used in a number of ways. Metals can be used for industrial purposes such as manufacture of trucks, cars, airplanes, ships, and railways. They can also be used to manufacture domestic items such as cutlery, crockery and even in packaging. The good thing about metal recycling is that, metal can be recycled over and over without altering its properties. The most common recyclable metals include aluminum and steel. The other metals for example silver, copper, brass and gold are so valuable that they are rarely thrown away to be collected for recycling. Therefore, they do not create a waste disposal crisis or problem.
The Metal Recycling Process
The metal recycling process is similar to the usual recycling process. The metals are first sorted on the basis or their properties. It is however important to have the basic understanding or knowledge about metals. This will help in recycling them and keeping a green environment. The metal recycling process follows the following steps.
This is the first and most important step in metal recycling. It simply involves collecting all materials that are made of metals. This process should be organized in such a way that there should be containers specifically designed to collect metals. Some people and business persons have established scrap yards whereby people are encouraged to collect different metals, take them there and be paid for what they have collected. Different metals cost differently at the yards. The scrap metal yards are used as collecting centres for the metals.
Once the metals have been collected, the next important step is to sort the metals. This involves separating what can be recycled form what is non-recyclable. It is essential to point out that the quality of metal recycled is very important. A high quality recycled product or item can only be created if the original materials used in the recycling process are of good quality. This therefore, calls for strict quality checkup during the sorting process.
After sorting, the next step is to compact or squeeze the metal. All the recycle materials are squeezed and squashed using machines so that they do not occupy so much space in the conveyor belts.
After the crushing and breaking of the metal, the shredding process starts. The metals are broken down into tiny pieces or sheets to allow further processing. The small pieces have large surface to volume ratio that can be melted using less energy as compared to when they are in large pieces of metal. Normally, steel is changed into steel blocks while on the other hand aluminum is converted into sheets.
5. Melting and Purification
Melting of the scrap metal takes place in a large furnace. Each metal is taken to a furnace that is specifically designed to melt that particular metal based on its specific properties. The melting process uses a considerable amount of energy. However, the energy required for melting recycled metal is less compared to energy required to make metal from its raw material. The furnace is heated to appropriate degrees capable of melting the particular metal. Melting can take minutes or hours depending on how big the furnace is, the volume of metal placed in the furnace and the heat degree of the furnace.
After the melting process is complete, the next step is the purification process. Metals are purified using different methods. Purification of metals is done to ensure that the final product is free of impurities and that it is of high quality. Electrolysis is one of the methods of purifying some metals. Other metals are simply passed under powerful magnetic systems that separate metals from other recyclables. Today there are different purification methods depending on the type of metal.
7. Melting and Solidifying of the Metal
After the purification process, the molten metal is then carried by the conveyor belt to a cooling chamber where it is cooled and solidified. It is at this stage that the scrap metal is made into a solid metal that can be used again. Other chemicals are then added into the molten metal to make it acquire its density and other properties. It is at the cooling stage that different shapes and sizes of metals are made and designed.
8. Transportation of the Metal Bars
Once the bars have been designed and made, the final product is then packed depending on their sizes and shapes ready for transportation to different factories and to people who require the metal. Thereafter, the cycle begins again.
So, Why Is It Important to Recycle Metal?
Some people disregard the need for recycling solid waste especially metal. Some throw them away while others leave the metal to rot away. However, if you understood the numerous benefits of recycling these items, you will no longer throw them away or leave them to be consumed by rust and other weather elements. The following are some of the benefits of recycling metals:
- Preservation of Natural Resources
This is one of the main reasons why people should recycle metal. Metal is excavated from the earth through a process called mining. Over time, the areas excavated tend to be depleted and the miners move to other areas looking for metals to mine. This means that in case this trend does not stop or is not controlled, most areas will have huge excavation holes. Therefore, in order to prevent this and preserve the environment, it is important to recycle metal.
- Reduction of Emissions
Have you heard of global warming? This is a phenomenon brought about by the steady increase of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. Although it is hard to undo what has already been done to the atmosphere in terms of destroying the ozone layer and global warming, we can control or stop causing further damage. This can only be done by embracing recycling of metal and other solid waste.
- Economic Development
Through recycling, the government can save a lot of money that could be spent on mining and processing of metals. The money saved can be channeled into other development programs that can help improve the living standards of the people and the economy as a whole. Additionally, through the exportation of recycled metals, the government can generate more revenue, improve the socioeconomic status of its citizens and provide jobs to the unemployed.
- Management of Energy Consumption
The recycling of metal reduces the growing demand for natural resources such as ore. When more and more metals are recycled, the demand for the natural metal is reduced. On top of that, less energy is required to process scrap metal than it is required to extract ore from the earth, purify it and later shape it into desired shapes and sizes. The preserved energy can be used for other purposes in the economy.
- Saves You Money
This is one of the best yet most ignored reasons. If most people recycled metal and metal items on a regular basis, it would be less costly to produce metal in terms of energy and the ore required. This will mean that the actual cost of buying metal will reduce hence saving you some money.
To conclude, metal is an important resource which should be recycled to ensure a steady supply, prevent environmental degradation and improve the economy.
Image credit: Erik Hersman , Josh S Jackson
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