Metal Recycling & The Environment
Recycling Reduces the Need for Mining
Environmental issues with ore mining can include loss of biodiversity as wildlife habitats and natural land are destroyed. It can cause serious erosion and contamination of the earth. Groundwater and surface water is polluted by chemicals that are used in the mining process and acid mine drainage caused by large-scale disturbance of the earth. Leaking chemicals can also negatively affect the health of the local human population. Recycled metals directly reduce the demand for the production of new metal from mined ores.
Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia, Canada
Recycle Your Metals & Help Our Planet
Aluminum is 100% recyclable and can be recycled indefinitely with no loss in quality. If we recycled all of our aluminum we would never have to make more – in theory we have an inexhaustible supply of it in circulation right now.
Open‐pit mining is most often used for obtaining aluminum ore, which destroys large sections of the world’s natural land.
Recycling aluminum creates 97% less water pollution than producing new metal from ore.
Extracting virgin metals from ore is extremely energy-intensive. Recycling aluminum reduces energy consumption by up to 95% and by about 60% for steel.
Compared with the production of virgin aluminum ore, recycling aluminum also reduces greenhouse gases by 95%. Emissions are reduced even more when the complete cycle of mining and transporting new aluminum is considered.
The energy saved from recycling a single aluminum can run a television for about three hours or saves the energy equivalent of about two litres of gasoline.
Recycling one ton of aluminum saves the equivalent in energy of about 9000 litres of gasoline. This is approximately equivalent to the amount of electricity used by a typical home over a period of ten years.
It would take about 400 years for aluminum to break down naturally in a landfill.
More than a third of all aluminum currently produced globally originates from old, traded and new scrap.
Steel is the most recycled material in the world. More steel is recycled annually than all other materials, including aluminum, glass and paper combined.
Steel is a unique metal because it always contains recycled steel. All new steel produced last year contained a minimum of 25% recycled steel, on average.
The Steel Recycling Institute reported a recycling rate of 83.3% for steel in 2008.
Cars are one of the most recycled commodities. Steel and iron components make up nearly 65% of an average vehicle, and almost all of that is recovered for reuse and recycling along with most of the other metals – including aluminum, copper and lead. The recycling rate for vehicles is about 100% each year.
Only about 12% of Earth’s known copper resources have been mined throughout history. Nearly all of that is still in circulation because the recycling rate for copper is higher than any other engineering metal.
Copper’s recycling value is very high: Premium grade copper scrap normally has at least 95% of the value of copper from newly mined ore.