Why should we recycle metals? Although the art of scrapping metals for their value dates back thousands of years, today, the environmental incentives have become an extremely important part of the industry. Currently, about 45% of the world’s steel production comes from recycled metal, along with about one third of the world’s aluminum and over 40% of the world’s copper. In 2014, approximately 135 million metric tons of scrap metal was recycled in the United States alone.
When it comes to recycling scrap metal, the list of benefits for the environment and the economy is very long. Scrap metal recycling offers benefits in energy conservation, conservation of natural resources, greenhouse gas emission reduction, as well as positively impacting the local economy.
Recycling scrap metal requires significantly less energy than manufacturing new metals from ore. For example, the estimated energy saved by using recycled metals is:
95% for aluminum
90% for copper
60% for iron and steel
Recycling scrap metal contributes to a sustainable future. Greenhouse gas emissions are reduced substantially through the practice of metal recycling. ISRI reports that recycling metal may cut greenhouse gas emissions by 300 million to 500 million tons. In addition, using scrap metal in lieu of virgin ore generates 97% less mining waste and uses 40% less water, according to the National Institutes of Health (2012).
Natural Resource Conservation
As metal can be recycled and reused indefinitely, scrap metal recycling allows us to preserve the finite resources we have on earth. According to ISRI, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, recycling one ton of aluminum conserves up to five tons of bauxite, and recycling one ton of steel conserves 2500 lbs. of iron ore, 1400 lbs. of coal and 120 lbs. of limestone (2012).
The scrap metal facts speak for themselves. Recycling and reusing scrap offers an opportunity to create a sustainable future for global, and local, economies and environments.