In terms of recycling metal, you have to look at three things. Can it be a precious metal, or can it be ferrous or is it nonferrous? Let’s look first at the precious metals; more specifically what makes a metal precious? Actually, it is the rarity and the price. Gold and silver are gold and silver, as are all the metals in the platinum family: palladium, osmium, ruthenium and rhodium. Perhaps you have never been aware of half of these, but they are typical used in electronics and advanced products because they do not corrode easily. You don’t think of precious metal’s monetary values in pennies per pounds, in dollars per ounce. Yes, jewelry can be recycled and melted down. You hear ads for companies that will pay you cash for the old broken gold or sterling silver chains. But not many metals are “pure”. Gold can be mixed with copper or nickel for strength as can silver be combined with other metals. You have to know the chemical make-up of the precious metal to determine its recycling price. Did you know for example , that silver can be extracted from X-rays?
The U. S Department of Defense (DoD) has led the way in recycling the platinum metals because they are used so readily in high-tech weaponry. Previously 25 years, it is estimated that over $235 million dollars have now been saved through DoD recycling. That will hardly balance the Federal budget, but it’s really a good start.
Ferrous means the metal has large iron content. Steel and iron recycling is the most abundant and the most prosperous in the world. Everything from the shavings left from fabricating and welding to the actual red colored beams are gathered up to be re-melted and reused. Cars, trains, ships and silos are also recycled. Smelting raw iron may be environmentally toxic. Re-smelting cuts emission considerably. Not only that, it’s easier because the metal had been freed of impurities, whereas the raw iron hasn’t.
That leaves the nonferrous metals, which obviously don’t contain large amounts of iron. Copper, aluminum, lead and tin consumption world wide is 40% recycled metals today. That’s exciting. Recycling of nonferrous metal ore has existed for almost a century, so it is widely accepted. The result, as with other recycling methods is less pollution and less energy loss in the manufacturing. I am sure you have been aware of copper thieves steeling cable wires. Copper recycling can be quite a lucrative business because it is really well known. But beware. Increasingly more regulation in the United States as to who are able to sell copper back to the plants is in process. Very soon you won’t have to have a Doberman watching that cable or gas line entering your house because skirting what the law states will be too much of a hassle.