How many times can scrap be recycled?
Recycling is good for the environment, we all know that. But what many people don’t know is that not all recyclable materials can actually be used to create new items. While glass can be recycled over and over again without changing its properties, plastic and paper can be reused only a couple of times. The longevity of a given material depends on its resistance to degradation during the recycling process.
The word “durability” comes to mind almost automatically when we think about the characteristics of metals. And as it turns out, it holds true in the subject of recycling as well. Almost all types of metals can be reused repeatedly without causing any damage to the quality of the final product. Of course, in order to achieve such results, the proper recycling process has to be maintained. But which metals are the most commonly recycled and how can they get a new life?
Steel is not only 100% recyclable, but it’s also the most recycled material on the planet. Its recycling rate stands at around 85%, which is a staggering number, especially if you compare it with the rate of plastic which is around 20%.
Steel can be repeatedly recycled without sustaining any damage and reused in new products with a benefit to the environment. Using recycled steel in production helps avoid the consequences of mining, e.g. air and water pollution.
Humans have been using copper longer than any other type of metal and thanks to its ability to conduct electricity, it’s not going to be discarded anytime soon. Recycling copper is very cost-effective as it uses only about 10% of the energy needed for mining and processing ores.
It also helps avoid producing harmful gases, which are emitted during the process of extraction. Currently, even up to 50% of copper used in the EU comes from recycled sources.
Aluminium can be recycled endlessly without losing any of its quality in the process. The most commonly recycled aluminium items are cans and at over 60% of the estimated recycling rate, it’s currently the most recycled product. Recycling saves up to 90% of the energy needed to process raw materials and is highly effective in reducing the carbon footprint connected with aluminium production.
The sustainability of metals creates great possibilities for recycling and reusing them in the production of new items. But even though the recycling rates are already high, there’s still a lot that can be done in this area. To bring the numbers up even higher there needs to be a bigger focus on the proper waste segregation.