Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metals in the Recycling Process

Posted on: 13 June 2018

So far as the metal recycling industry is concerned, there are two categories of metal. The first constitutes ferrous metals which includes any combination of iron and carbon. The other group is made up of non-ferrous metals such as scrap copper, aluminium, lead, tin or zinc. How does the recycling industry handle these two groups of metals in order to make it into materials which can be used once again?

Scrap Ferrous Metal

When metal is collected for recycling at a local level, it is often mixed up with other items that need to be recycled, such as card and glass. The big advantage that ferrous metals offer the recycling sector is that they are magnetic. Therefore, iron-based metals can often be sorted from non-ferrous metals and other materials simply by employing large electromagnets. When material passes by an electromagnetic field, perhaps on a conveyor belt, it will be attracted to the magnet that is generating said field. Much of the ferrous metal that is recycled is sorted in this fashion with the electromagnet being turned off when the material it has attracted is ready to be dumped into a nearby storage container or hopper.

Bear in mind that all ferrous metal can be handled in this way. This includes alloy steel, wrought iron, carbon steel and cast iron. Once the ferrous metal has been captured and any impurities - such as paint finishes – have been removed it can be reprocessed into new products. Typical ferrous metal products are things like I-beams that are used in the construction industry as well as railway tracks and car components. With only minor losses, scrap ferrous metal can be recycled again and again in this fashion.

Scrap Non-Ferrous Metal

The most valuable non-ferrous metals around are those which are considered to be the rarest. Precious metals fall into this category, such as gold, platinum and silver. In many cases, it is jewellers and jewellery makers who recycle this material as it tends not to be available on an industrial scale. When it comes to things like scrap copper, tin or aluminium, a recycling plant will generally sort all of these metals into a single group with few non-metallic substances. Once the ferrous metals have been removed in the process described earlier, aluminium, zinc and so on tend to be separated by eye. Some metals, like copper, are easy to spot because of their yellow appearance while materials like aluminium are light and silvery in colour.

Once sorted out into individual metals, non-ferrous metals are often melted down. This means they can be supplied to manufacturers in just the way that they want. For example, aluminium ingots are supplied to industry so that they can be extruded to make anything from aircraft parts to ladder rungs.


The Beginners Guide to Environmental Issues

Hello everyone, Kate here. A few months ago, my young son came home from school with a science assignment about the environment. As I was helping him complete it, I couldn't believe how much more he knew about the environment than I did--and the facts he was telling me were alarming! Even after his science project was complete, I couldn't stop looking into environmental issues and how to live a more green lifestyle. I knew there must be other people out there who knew as little as I did, so I decided to start this blog to keep you all in the loop about green energy, nature preservation and more.


Latest Posts