How Is Metal Recycled: A Simple Guide

Metals are one of the most useful items on this planet. They have many purposes and you can find them anywhere, from complex industrial equipment to items you can use in your home, such as cutlery. Once you no longer need it, it would be a good idea to recycle it. The good news is it’s relatively simple to do it, while the recycled item keeps its initial physical properties. But how is metal recycled? Here is a small guide that should help you in your eco-friendly initiatives.

What Metals Can You Recycle?

As mentioned above, metal recycling is quite friendly. This means you can recycle almost any metal, but the most popular ones include steel and aluminum. Copper is another common material that ends up in recycling bins, but such facilities eagerly receive alloys, brass, or even valuable metals like gold and silver.

Steel and Tin

These two metals are the main components of those objects known as tin cans. Actually, the cans are mostly made of steel but are covered with a thin layer of tin. Even if these cans don’t contain much tin, they represent the main source of the metal in recycling centers. The process of extracting the tin might be a bit complicated, but it’s still a widespread activity.

Steel, on the other hand, is a lot more versatile. If you find centers that are looking for steel, you can get it from pipes, tools, or maybe cutlery.


This metal is probably the most widespread in households and public spaces. If you drink a lot of soda, you can take the cans to a recycling center. Whenever you unpack your lunch, don’t throw away that aluminum foil. The process is more or less the same as it is for tin and steel.


This metal is the base material for wires and pipes, so you can find plenty of it in your household. However, it is not so widespread as the other two. This is why recycling centers value it even more and are asking everyone to bring them copper. There are several variants of the metal, and the recycling processes differ for each of them.

Squashed aluminum can thrown on the ground

How Is Metal Recycled?

Although some procedures might differ depending on the type of metal you are recycling, the steps are basically the same. Knowing the process will help you collect metal debris properly and make the recycling process easier.

1.      Collection

At first, you should bring all metal together. You can do it by labeling a trash can in your home only for metal debris or throwing them in a special recycling can on the street.

2.      Sorting

Through this step, the recycling facilities sort every type of metal. This way, they can split those metals that are recyclable from those that are no longer in a good state and cannot be recycled. Poor metal makes for poor future products, so sorting requires a lot of attention.

3.      Processing or Shredding

This step implies making the metal pieces compact. The facilities can do it by pressing or squeezing so the metal will get more workable. One additional step might be the one of shredding, although not all metals require it. Shredding makes pieces easier to handle and process, as they are cut into smaller scraps that keep the same properties.

4.      Melting and Purification

Once the metal pieces have undergone processing, it’s time to put them in a furnace and melt them. This will produce a compact paste of hot metal in several hours or maybe minutes. The time depends on the size of the furnace and the quantity of metal that needs melting.

To assure the resulting products will have the best quality, the melted metal needs to undergo purification. While some metals can get pure just by passing under a magnetic field, others might need electrolysis.

5.      Pouring the Metal in the New Shapes

At this point, the recycled metal is ready for the production of the new objects. The metal in question is poured in the new shape and then taken to a special chamber where it can cool off. Through this process, it gets solid again and turns into a new metal object. The recyclers might add some other substances to make the metal more durable.

Why Should You Recycle Metal?

How is metal recycled? As you have seen, the process isn’t really that complicated. However, before thinking about the process itself, you should wonder why it’s good to do it. One first reason should be the one why we recycle everything.

Saving the Environment and Producing Waste

Recycling is necessary to keep the environment healthy. When people get metal in its base form, they do it through mining and from other natural resources. Over time, these resources start deteriorating, leaving a powerful impact on the ecosystem.

However, resource conservation should not be the only reason. By reducing metal and solid waste pollution, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The process of metal production is also kind of pollutant, so recycling it is better.

Better Economic Prospects

Instead of spending money on mining and metal extraction, governments can focus more on recycling. The process is a lot cheaper, so they get to save plenty of monetary resources. Instead, they can make investments in other fields.

In fact, the same thing applies to people. If we recycled more metal, there will be no need for so many facilities of metal production. This will gradually decrease the prices for such objects, and everyone gets to spend less and manage their finances better.

Summing Up

How is metal recycled? The process involves sorting, shredding, melting, and then purification and makes use of metal in good shape to create new objects. Recycling metal is truly a money-friendly method, as you can contribute to the decrease in prices and their investment for better causes. Instead of throwing metal objects away, you can take them to a recycling facility. This way, you will save the environment and conserve natural resources while you are also helping the economy.

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William E. Eubanks

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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