Scrap Metal Recycling—Making Change
Scrap Metal RecyclingMaking Change
By Marisa Miller Hegyesi
According to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), in the United States last year alone, scrap recyclers handled more than 125 million tons of recyclables destined for domestic use and overseas markets. This tonnage included approximately:
68 million tons of scrap iron & steel
4.3 million tons of scrap aluminum
2 million tons of scrap copper
1.4 million tons of stainless steel scrap
1.3 million tons of scrap lead
214,000 tons of zinc
What effect does scrap metal recycling have on our environment? The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified seven major benefits when recycled metals are used instead of virgin material (iron ore and coal) in making new steel:
105% reduction in consumer wastes generated
97% reduction in mining wastes
90% savings in virgin material use
86% reduction in air pollution
76% reduction in water pollution
74% savings in energy
40% reduction in water use
What would our world look like without scrap metal recycling? Our yards and landfills would be overflowing. Millions of automobiles, appliances, and other obsolete items are recycled every year. According to ISRI, recycled metals save the United States more than $2 billion per year in solid waste costs and has extended the lives of landfills in the U.S. by more than 140% (four years) during the last decade. Furthermore, the amount of metal recycled annually equals approximately one-third of the amount of all municipal solid waste (MSW) land-filled in the U.S. every year.
Scrap metal recycling has been around since ancient times. Today, scrap recycling has become a multi-billion dollar worldwide business. Where does scrap metal come from? It comes from individuals, machine shops, manufacturers, government entities, and other industries. Scrap metal is composed of items such as aluminum cans, used pipe, sheet metal buildings, automobiles, appliances, computer components, pots, pans, lawn furniture, bicycles, obsolete equipment, copper wire, old structural steel building frames, tin cans, etc.
These recycled metals are used to make new steel products such as automobiles, structural steel, aluminum siding, and toys. According to the June 1993 issue of School and College Magazine, over 5400 BTU’s of energy are conserved for every pound of steel recycled. Every time a ton of steel is recycled, 2500 pounds of iron ore, 1000 pounds of coal and 40 pounds of limestone are preserved.
What is being done to further promote scrap metal recycling? The Institute of Scrap Metal Recycling Industries, Inc. (ISRI) is an industry trade association representing 1,300 companies that process, broker, and industrially consume scrap commodities. ISRIs primary objective is to promote greater awareness of the industry’s role in conserving the future through recycling. ISRIs program, Design for Recycling works with manufacturers to ensure that consumer products can be safely and economically recycled using existing recycling methods and technology. The program also works to reduce the environmental risks from consumer products, and when appropriate provides assistance to manufacturers who are required to alter the product designs or manufacturing processes to ensure that the products can be recycled safely and efficiently. ISRI also has teaching aids for children that illustrate different recycling processes.
The Steel Recycling Institute (SRI), a unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), promotes, educates and sustains the recycling of all steel products. SRIs Steel Cycles program (Pre-K through 12), is aimed at providing educators and community leaders with educational tools to teach young people about sensible solid waste management.
Recycling is also being included as part of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. Based on well-founded scientific standards, LEED is a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. The LEED Materials & Resources Credit 4: Recycled Content intends to increase demand for building products that incorporate recycled content materials, therefore reducing impacts resulting from extraction and processing of new virgin materials. Recycling scrap metal during new construction is one opportunity that will help to meet Credit 4 and achieve a point toward being a LEED certified building.
On a global level, scrap metal recycling conserves the worlds natural resources and improves the environment for future generations.
Commercial Metals Company:
U. S. EPA:
Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries:
The American Iron and Steel Institute:
Steel Recycling Institute:
U. S. Green Building Council: