How is metal recycled and why is it important?

Laser24 are the experts when it comes to the laser cutting and folding process – this means our expert team have the knowledge on each material and grade available. Laser 24 need to know both how to laser cut metal available to us and what to do with the waste and scrap when it has served its purpose. Here we examine how metal is recycled and why it is so important for both our business, our customers, and the environment.

Why do we recycle metal?

The benefits of metal recycling are numerous. If metal items are thrown away, they will rust and will become unusable, unnecessarily occupying landfills. Not only does this take up room, but the rubbish in landfills contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases. Keeping metal out of landfills helps to reduce these types of gases. As it stands, landfills are assumed to hold millions of pounds of valuable metals.

Furthermore, the creation of new metal is energy intensive. At a time where energy prices are at an all-time high and the climate crisis continues to damage the planet, we must focus on reducing this energy use where possible. Recycling one aluminium can save enough energy to power a television for 3 hours.

How is metal recycled?

Metal is recycled in a 6 step process.

Collection – Metal is collected from recycle bins, scrap yards, steel structures, railroad tracks and other industrial and consumer scrap.

Sorting – Once the metal has been collected, the metals are separated into types. In automated recycling operations, magnets are often used to separate ferrous and non-ferrous metals. It is also useful to segregate clean metal from dirty metal.

Processing – To allow for processing, the metals are shredded. This helps to melt the material more easily, using less energy. Aluminium, for example, is stripped into small sheets, whereas steel is changed to steel blocks.

Melting – Once the material has been processed, it is melted. Each type is melted in a specific furnace designed for that material. While this step uses a lot of energy, it is still significantly less than is used in the production of virgin metals.

Purification – This is done to ensure the metal is of high quality and free of contaminants. It is often done using electrolysis.

Solidifying – Once purified, the melted metals are formed into specific shapes – usually bars – that can be easily used for the production of metal products.

Are recycled metals of good quality?

The excellent thing about metal as a material is that almost every type can be recycled innumerous times without its properties degrading. This also means recycled materials can be cut to the same high standard using one of our fast and efficient fibre lasers.

Despite this, however, only 32% of the crude steel produced worldwide in 2019 was made using recycled materials. With metal recycling regulations in place, the recycled metals produced are just as good in quality as any virgin material.

What does recycling metal mean our industry?

The current rate of metal recycling is concerningly low, given just how recyclable metal is without any reduction in quality due to the recent health pandemic. While community recycling programmes and public awareness contribute to a higher consumer recycling rate, there are still challenges around the collection stage of the recycling process.

As technology advances, the mix of materials in complex products makes recycling increasingly difficult. Extracting metals from a device such as an iPad for example would be particularly challenging.

To foster a growth in the recycling of metal, businesses and industries at a wider level need to be considering not only how they source metal and how they deal with their scrap & waste – but also how recyclable their end-product is.

As industry-leading experts on laser cutting, a huge number of materials including both virgin and recycled metal, Laser 24 are on hand to answer any of your material questions.

Get in touch

Much of the waste and scrap form the metals used at Laser 24, helping to improve the UK’s carbon footprint. If you require more information on the services we provide, please call our team on 01268 733 883 or email today.