Environmental Benefits of Recycling Scrap Metal & Electronic Waste
Scrap metal recycling is an integral part of the global manufacturing process because the use of scrap metal lowers the environmental impact of manufacturing raw materials, as well as the total cost of producing new materials. The scrap metal industry serves as a “surface mine” – that is, a plentiful source of metal “above ground” to be utilized to produce new products from old, therefore significantly reducing the need for traditional mining. Recycling scrap metal reduces the amount of harmful materials in our waste stream, provides green jobs for Americans, protects the environment, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and uses less energy than making metal from virgin ore.
For example, according to The Can Manufacturers Institute, “Metal cans are produced with abundant and recycled materials, minimizing the depletion of natural resources. Steel and aluminum cans are the nation’s most recycled food and beverage containers. The result of all that recycling? Less pollution, reduced costs and a steady supply of resources for years to come—the very definition of sustainability.”
Electronic products are made from valuable resources and highly engineered materials, including metals, plastics, and glass, all of which require energy to mine and manufacture them. Reusing and recycling consumer electronics conserves our natural resources. Electronics recycling offers the opportunity to transform old technology into a renewable resource. By reclaiming these materials, E-scrap processors mine these valuable commodities for use in the next generation of electronic products. This conservation strategy also protects the environment by keeping scrap materials out of landfills. This is important because many of these products contain potentially hazardous materials like lead and mercury which must be disposed of safely.
Consider these facts (According to the Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries, the Steel Recycling Institute, U.S. EPA and E-World Online):
- More than 60% of the Iron and Steel made in the United States is manufactured using Ferrous scrap.
- Recycling Steel requires 60% less energy than producing steel from iron ore.
- On average, the United States processes enough Ferrous scrap daily, by weight, to build 25 Eiffel Towers every day of the year.
- Creating products from recycled steel instead of virgin ore uses 40% less water and reduces mining wastes by 97%.
- By using Ferrous scrap rather than virgin materials in the production of iron and steel, CO2 emissions are reduced by 58%.
- Due to recycling, in a year, the steel industry saves the equivalent energy to power about 18 million households.
- Recycling one car saves more than 2,500 lbs. of iron ore 1,400 lbs.. of coal and 120 lbs. of limestone
- Steel is the most recycled material in the United States
- Nonferrous metals, including aluminum, copper, lead, nickel, tin, zinc and others, are among the few materials that do not degrade or lose their chemical or physical properties in the recycling process. As a result, nonferrous metals have the capacity to be recycled an infinite number of times.
- The United States annually recycles enough copper to provide the content for 26,000 Statues of Liberty.
- Copper alloy scrap provides about half of the copper consumed in the United States each year.
- If all aluminum scrap processed in the U.S. were used solely to produce standard soda cans, the lined-up cans would stretch 25 million miles – the distance from Earth to Venus.
- The United States domestically recycled aluminum cans– saved the energy equivalent of 26 million barrels of gasoline – America’s entire gas supply for three days.
- Recycling one ton of aluminum conserves up to 5 tons of bauxite ore and 14 mega-watt hours of electricity.
- Energy Saved using aluminum scrap vs. virgin materials (mined ore) is up to 92%.
- Approximately 60% of the aluminum used in North America is from domestically recycled content.
- A used aluminum can is recycled and back on the grocery shelf in as little as 60 days.
- Lead-acid batteries, such as Auto, Truck, Valve Regulated (used for computer data center back-up) – a primary use for Lead, have a 99.3% recycling rate. See article: “Study finds nearly 100 percent recycling rate for lead batteries”
- More than 9 million metric tons of nonferrous scrap was processed in the United States last year from a wide array of consumer, commercial and industrial sources (ISRI)
- The Environmental Protection Agency states that 3 million tons of e-waste is generated in the US. annually.
- Last year, the U.S. electronics recycling industry processed 3 million to 4 million tons of used and end-of-life electronics equipment. More than 70 percent of the collected equipment is manufactured into specification grade commodities – including scrap steel, aluminum, copper, lead, circuit boards, plastics and glass.
- One metric ton of electronic scrap from personal computers contains more gold then that recovered from 17 tons of gold ore.
- Recycling 100 million cell phones is the equivalent of saving enough energy to power approximately 194,000 US households with electricity for one year.
- Almost all of the materials used to manufacture a cell phone can be recovered to make new products. Metals, plastics, and rechargeable batteries from recycled cell phones are turned into new materials and products.
- Recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by 3,657 US homes in a year.
- One metric ton of circuit boards can contain 40 to 800 times the amount of gold and 30 to 40 times the amount of copper mined from one metric ton of ore in the US.
- For every million cellphones that are recycled, 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – 2014 Data.