Ferrous and non-ferrous scrap. What is the difference?

Ferrous and non-ferrous scrap. What is the difference?

On: Dec 16, 2019
By: TransMetal
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Category: Blog
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We’re getting more and more used to recycling different materials. We already segregate plastics, glass, and paper, it’s not a surprise then that people are getting interested in scrap metal recycling as well. But while you can simply arrange a scrap metal removal and the collectors will take care of everything for you, it’s a good idea to find out more about different types of metal and their recycling process.

What types of metals are there?

Metals are divided into two categories: ferrous metals, like iron, or steel, and non-ferrous metals, this group includes aluminium, copper, and gold among others. The main difference between them is that you can find iron in ferrous metals, and non-ferrous ones simply don’t contain it. While both types have many uses, since their chemical composition is different, they have their own unique characteristics.

What are the differences?

One of the first things you’ll notice while comparing different types of metals is that the ones that contain iron have magnetic properties. Non-ferrous metals, on the other hand, don’t react in any way when you put a magnet close to them. It’s the easiest way to tell whether you’re dealing with ferrous metals or not as it’s visible even to an untrained eye.

Then there’s the matter of oxidation. In most cases, ferrous metals don’t react too well with water, although stainless steel is immune to this problem, thanks to its unique composition, which combines both ferrous and non-ferrous metals. But for the most part, prolonged proximity to water and humidity can lead to rusting of metals that contain iron.

Even though ferrous metals are susceptible to water, they are the strongest type of metal and can withstand strong forces without suffering damages. That’s not to say that all non-ferrous metals get damaged easily, but generally, materials that contain iron are a lot stronger.

Non-ferrous metals can also be identified because they are more lightweight. This makes them perfect for manufacturing planes, where reducing the weight is critical. They are also very malleable, so reshaping and reusing them doesn’t involve as much work. And ferrous metals, thanks to their durability, are great in construction.

ferrous scrap metal

Ferrous or non-ferrous scrap metal

When it comes to collecting scrap metal, the difference between ferrous and non-ferrous metals is important as well. The main thing that may interest scrap metal collectors is the issue of scrap metal prices. Non-ferrous metals are rarer, so it’s generally possible to get a better price for them. But since ferrous metals are often used in construction, among others, they are often found in larger quantities, which makes selling them more beneficial.

Since both types of metals have different characteristics and uses, it’s very important to keep them separated. Though both of them can be recycled over and over again without losing any of their qualities, they shouldn’t be mixed if they are to maintain their properties. That’s why it’s essential to find new and more effective ways to make the sorting process faster and efficient.

Common questions:

What are ferrous and non-ferrous metals?

Ferrous metals are the ones that contain iron, like steel or cast iron. They are usually quite hard, which makes them very useful in construction and manufacturing. Non-ferrous metals have no iron in them, common examples are copper and aluminium, but also precious metals like gold and silver belong to this category.

What are the examples of ferrous metals?

Steel is probably the first metal that comes to mind when thinking about ferrous metals. It’s also one of the most recycled materials right now. Other common examples include carbon steel, cast iron, and wrought iron.

What are non-ferrous metals used for?

Non-ferrous metals have various uses, thanks to their characteristics. Because they aren’t as susceptible to corrosion as ferrous metals, they are great for outdoor uses, for example, roofing or gutters. And the lack of magnetic properties makes them perfect for electronic devices.

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