Manufacturers and their customers use millions of tons of metal every year; metals are used in everything from soft drink cans to huge machines used in countless industries. In the last year that such statistics were available it has been estimated that about 150 tons of scrap metal was recycled, this is an imposing number as it represents about 40 percent of the metal used. When consumers and corporations recycle metal there are several benefits.
When you recycle metal there are numerous environmental benefits. When you compare producing product from recycled metal rather than start with raw ore there is a huge reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The emissions from smelting new material are thought to contribute to climate change as well as increasing the level of air pollution in nearby communities which of course result in health related issues. It is estimated that the simple recycling of scrap metal may reduce greenhouse gases between 300 and 500 million tons annually. In addition to this significant reduction in harmful greenhouse gasses, the use of recycled metal rather than use virgin material results in a dramatic reduction in mining waste and an equally dramatic reduction in water consumption.
The production of metal uses a huge amount of energy. When you recycle metal the energy that would be expended in exploration, extraction, refining and downstream processes is greatly reduced. The amount of energy that can be saved varies depending on the metal; aluminum is a major contributor, it is estimated that recycling waste aluminum uses a full 95 percent less energy than producing the same tonnage from raw materials. While the energy savings for steel are somewhat less, it is still 60 percent. These numbers are often hard to equate, it may help if you think of it in household terms; when you recycle one aluminum can the energy saved will power a single 60 watt incandescent bulb for four hours minimum.
Conservation of raw material:
There is only so much raw material available on the face of the planet. When you recycle metal you help to reduce the strain on ever depleting resources. One pound of recycled aluminum saves approx four pounds of bauxite, the ore that aluminum is produced from.
The recycling industry uses a considerable amount of manpower. If it takes one person to send a specific amount of scrap metal to an incinerator, it takes 36 people to recycle it and more than six times as many people than it takes to send the same amount to a landfill. When you help by recycling metal you help an industry that contributes almost $250 billion to the economy and employs over one million people.