Metals are one of the easiest materials to recycle, and can be processed at many recycling centers and scrap metal facilities. They hold their value fairly well, and most types of metal can be recycled again and again with no change in their basic properties. By recycling metals whenever possible, you can help protect the environment, reducing energy consumption and diverting waste from landfills.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, people have been recycling steel for more than 150 years. Everything from iron to steel alloys such as stainless steel can be melted down to create new products. Contractors and manufacturers can recycle steel beams, machines and equipment, while homeowners can recycle steel cans and food containers. Old furnishings and appliances often contain steel in the form of casing or framing, and can be disassembled and recycled instead of going into a landfill.
Recycled steel can be used for various applications, from framing buildings to making cars. According to the EPA, steel recycling requires just a fraction of the energy and expense of producing new steel. The more you recycle, the more manufacturers can rely on cheaper existing steel supplies instead of new materials, which can keep price levels low on many everyday products.
Copper is used for plumbing pipes, electrical wires, jewelry and building materials. It has a rich natural coloring that makes it popular for decorative objects, and is also used to make brass or bronze alloys. Despite the fact that people have been using copper for thousands of years, only 12 percent of the world's raw copper supply has been mined as of 2010, according to the International Copper Association. This is largely due to copper's high recycling rates, which can be attributed to copper's ability to retain its value. According to the ICA, scrap copper has 95 percent of the value of new copper, making it a valuable commodity for scrap dealers. By recycling copper, you can not only earn money, but also help conserve the world's limited supply of this important resource.
According to Oberlin College, recycling an aluminum can requires only 5 percent of the energy needed to extract and produce a new can. Recycling one ton of aluminum can save enough energy to power a home for 10 years. By recycling your aluminum cans, food containers and building materials, you'll help protect the environment, reduce emissions and keep prices low on many everyday items.
Recycled aluminum can be used to produce new beverage cans and food containers, and is also used for mechanical equipment, sheet metal and cars.
While lead may not be the first material you think of when it comes to recycling, it's one of the most important. Lead can be found in medical and scientific equipment, building materials and car batteries. When these objects are disposed of in landfills, the lead eventually finds its way into groundwater supplies, where it harms fish and the ecosystem. This lead can also contaminate drinking water supplies, and is linked to kidney and nerve damage as well as learning disabilities in children, according to the Lenntech Corp.
Recycled lead is used to make new products, including batteries and protective equipment for hospitals and doctors offices.