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an image of scrap metal being sorted by a large crane, which is an important aspect of the metal recycling process

The Metal Recycling Process

There are many steps in the process of reusing metals that have come to the end of their original lifecycle, and having an understanding of this cycle and the positive implications that come as a consequence can help to persuade you to recycle your metal.

Here at Craddock Metal Recycling, we are one of the largest buyers and processors of recycled metals in the Birmingham area, so we are drawing on our experience to guide you through the process of metal recycling in our latest blog post.

Collect

The way that scrap metal plants collect metal for recycling is often through buying from a variety of different streams that includes large steel structure construction projects, the transport industry, industrial equipment, and consumer scraps. One of the largest sources of scrap metals is vehicles.

There is also prompt scrap, which is created in the manufacturing of new products and is effectively scraps of metal that cannot be used elsewhere and so are then sold to be recycled.

Sort

As you might think, all of these sources provide a variety of different types of metal – both ferrous and non-ferrous. Metal recycling plants next have the job of sorting these metals into appropriate categories and specific metals.

Using magnets and sensors to aid efficiency (in the larger plants) or magnets and eye/weight judgement (in smaller operations), the metal is sorted into ‘piles’ of each specific metal. The scrap is also often separated in terms of clean and dirty to improve the value of the cleaner materials.

Process

Because of the nature of scrap metal recycling, after sorting, the metal needs to be processed in order to be able to be melted back down for setting and then redistribution.

The basic process begins with shearing the metal in order to reduce the size of the scrap.

These sheared scraps are then often baled in order to make for easier storage and transportation.

When the metal is ready to be pushed through the rest of the process, it is shredded to drastically increase the surface area and create finer scrap.

The metal is now blasted in order to remove any lacquer or residue that has remained from manufacturing or use.

Melt

After the metal has been processed, it needs to be melted to allow for it to be set into larger blocks, slabs, or rods, of pure metal that is ready to be used. The shredded metal is put into a large furnace, with separate furnaces for each metal that are set to the specific melting points of that metal in the name of efficiency.

A large amount of energy and fuel is required to melt metal on any scale and metal recycling is no different. This melting process still uses drastically less energy and resources than creating new materials, though, and the metal has been shredded to ensure the widest surface area and the most efficiency when it comes to melting.

Purify

While the metal is still molten, it needs to be purified in order to remove any contaminants that remain from previous use or the recycling process. This will help the metal recycling plant get the most amount of money for their metal when it comes time to sell.

A common method of purifying metal is electrolysis, which is the process of passing an electric current through the molten metal in order to break it down and separate it into simpler substances, therefore allowing the contaminants to be removed more easily.

Solidify

After the metal has been purified, it’s time to solidify it so it can be sold and transported. This is essentially the final step in the process of recycling the metal for the plant.

The metal is carried along a large conveyor belt in moulds of the desired shape, which depends on the intended use. The metal cools and solidifies into the desired shape on this journey.

Distribute

Finally, the newly formed metal is sold and transported to the various factories where it will be used for new products. This marks the end of the metal recycling process, but also the start of a new cycle as these products are what will make up the metal to be recycled in the future.

Efficient and Sustainable

The metal recycling process has various steps that have been carefully considered to ensure the quality of the metal that is created at the end, but also with the minimal impact on the environment. Metal recycling is incredibly important as it uses far less energy than creating virgin metals and makes the most of the materials that we already have so is therefore efficient and sustainable.

Craddock Metal Recycling

If you are looking to recycle some of your metal goods, reach out to us here at Craddock Metal Recycling. We are experts in processing metal products to be reused and have been operating from our large plant in Birmingham since 1943.

To hear more from us, please call on 01527 66866 or fill out our simple contact form.

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