Why do we need to recycle
Virtually all metals can be recycled into high quality new metal. The process varies for different metals, but generally produces metals of equivalent quality. Thus, for example:
•Steelmaking using the electric arc furnace process uses scrap metal as the major raw material. This method is typically used for high quality tool steels and stainless steel. Smaller quantities of scrap can also be used in basic oxygen (blast furnace) steelmaking.
•Copper scrap is used by both primary and secondary producers, where processing methods include blast furnace, reverberatory furnace or electric arc furnace. In the latter, around 75-80 per cent raw material is scrap copper.
•Aluminium production uses a single production method – the Hall-Héroult Process. But virgin raw materials require temperatures of around 900 C, whilst scrap aluminium melts at around 660 C. Metals recycling protects the environment and saves energy. Using secondary raw materials means less use of natural resources which would otherwise be needed to make new metal compounds – such as iron ore in steelmaking; nickel in stainless steel; or alumina and bauxite in aluminium smelting.
There are also considerable savings in energy, and reduced CO2 emissions, in production methods using recycled materials: EU figures indicate that using recycled raw materials, including metals, cuts CO2 emissions by some 200 million tonnes every year. There are also other environmental benefits, for example, using recycled steel to make new steel enables reductions such as: •86% in air pollution •40% in water use •76% in water pollution