Metal elements are some of the most useful and versatile materials we have. From cars, buildings, computers and machinery to containers, packaging, tools and décor, we use metal countless times everyday. Because of this, it also becomes a material that is very important to recycle. And in 2008, metals were the second largest segment in recycling after paper goods!
A major benefit of metal recycling is preservation of the resource itself. Like all of our natural resources, we only have a limited amount available to us. By reusing already mined metal, we reduce the need to mine new metal ore. Recycling just one pound of aluminum saves 4lbs. of bauxite ore—a rock composed of a mixture of hydrous aluminum oxides, aluminum hydroxides, clay minerals and insoluble materials such as quartz, hematite, siderite and goethite, which is mined and used to create, you guessed it, aluminum. By recycling metals we not only spare ourselves the cost of depleting natural resources, but also spare the environment the cost of production during mining. According to The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, recycling metal may cut greenhouse gas emissions by anywhere from 300 million to 500 million tons. Not to mention eliminating the use of other natural resources, such as water, in the mining process.
Compared to mining, the process of recycling metal is pretty simple, and the process starts with us. People discard tons of metal every year, so it is top priority to make sure all our recyclable metal goods get into the recycling bin or proper place of disposal. After recyclables are out of your care, the process proceeds as follows:
1. Collections and Sorting: Recycling facilities pick up recycling from homes and also accept dropped off materials. Once they have the materials in possession, metals are sorted by type and inspected to make sure they are in good condition.
2. Shredding and Bailing: Once metals are sorted, the process of deconstructing them begins. Metals are shredded up and then compacted into bails for easy transportation.
3. Melting: The metal bails are transported to smelting facilities and loaded into a furnace. Here the bails are melted down to molten metal and are nearly in form that’s ready to be reused.
4. Lastly, Fabrication: The molten metal is poured into large molds where it cools and hardens. The hunks of metal are then rolled out into flat sheets and are officially ready to reuse.
The process is not only relatively simple and energy efficient, but for some metals—like steel, aluminum and copper—it is infinite! These metals have stable properties that allow them to be recycled time and time again for maximum sustainability. And metals super recyclability makes it one of our favorites to use. Whether simple recycled metal or repurposed oil drums, we feel good about incorporating this eco-friendly element into our products and designs. And we hope you will feel the same when you see them in your home; knowing that each part of them has had many lives before your décor, and will have many lives after as well.