In the United States, over 150 million tons of scrap materials are recycled which includes 85 million tons of iron and steel, 5.5 million tons of aluminum, 2 million tons of stainless steel, 1.8 million tons of copper, 1.2 million tons of lead and 420,000 tons of zinc. To put it mildly, that’s a lot of scrap metal. All of that makes the United States scrap metal industry worth 38 billion dollars, and the revenue from the United States’ scrap metal exports totaled 21 billion in 2014.
The most recycled metal in the world, however, is steel. Worldwide we use 555 million tons of recycled steel every year, and recycled steel accounts for 55% of materials that are processed in the United States. Beyond that, America exported 13 million tons of scrap steel last year.
What are the benefits of scrap metal recycling?
Scrap metal usage is one of the biggest ways we are able to conserve resources. With 55% of the world’s steel and 40% of the world’s copper, scrap metal recycling is helping the earth every day.
What is the impact, really though? Recycling just 1 ton of steel conserves 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal, and 120 pounds of limestone. The use of scrap metal also saves water, consuming 40% less than virgin ore. It also saves energy, scrap steel taking 75% less energy to process than iron ore. Copper requires 90% less, and aluminum 95% less. Recycling just one pound of steel saves enough energy to power a light bulb for 26 hours.
Scrap metal also helps reduce pollution, from cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions by 300-500 million tons. Using recycled steel in manufacturing also helps reduce water pollution by 76% and air pollution by 86%.
The scrap metal industry is also able to prevent waste by diverting 145 million tons from landfills each year. Using scrap metal instead of virgin ore also generates 97% less mining waste.
Outside of the environmental benefits, scrap metal recycling also helps create jobs and boost the economy. The United States scrap industry employs over 471,000 workers and scrap exports alone create 125,000 jobs. In all 50 states, the scrap industry generates over 105 billion dollars a year in economic activity which includes over 4 billion a year in state and local tax revenue, while scrap exports generate 28 billion in economic benefits.
How does scrap metal recovery work?
Recovering scrap metal from demolition projects provides valuable scrap metal for the recycling industry. There are 480 million tons of C&D waste in the united states annually, which is 40% of the nation’s landfill stream. However, 325 million tons of recoverable C&D materials are generated in the United States each year, and the industry is valued at over 7 billion dollars, while 70% of C&D waste is recovered. What does that actually look like though? Imagine a 4,300-acre landfill… filled 50 feet deep.
How does scrap metal get recovered? With shears, which can apply 15,000 tons of force to slice through 1 inch of steel and magnets which can pick up scrap metal from 4 feet away. In Oregon, demolition companies are able to recycle up to 90% of a structure, and contractors can salvage 35,000 tons of steel from a single building.
All in all, it’s important to recognize the power of scrap metal recycling both on individual contractors and the world at large. Take a look at our infographic to learn more about the incredible impact of scrap metal.
Want to post this infographic on your own site or blog? Paste the code below into your site’s code/source/HTML editor. If in WordPress, use the “Text” tab (not the “Visual” tab).