Emerging Trends in Metal Recycling

Humans have been salvaging and reusing scrap metal for a while, and the practice has proved effective from an environmental and economic perspective. Notably, the properties of metals, such as steel, iron and copper, do deteriorate with repeated melting and casting. That said, metal recycling has continued to change since old recycling practices are no longer viable. Notably, modern metal recycling practices have been developed due to emerging trends affecting the industry. This article highlights emerging trends impacting metal recycling.

Increased Demand for Lifestyle Metals — Today, the demand for lifestyle metals has grown significantly because of maintaining modern lifestyles. From laptops and smartphones to electric cars and alternative power sources, there are numerous devices that one cannot live without today. Therefore, high-tech industries need certain crucial lifestyle metals to keep up the production of electronic devices. Lifestyle metals, such as lithium, cobalt, indium and rare earth elements/metals (REEs) like niobium are integral to tech gadgets. For instance, lithium and cobalt are crucial to producing batteries used in electric vehicles and hand-held devices. However, since most lifestyle metals are found only in a handful of regions, manufacturers worry about future supply shortages. Thus, metal recyclers have beefed up e-waste recycling programs to ensure a steady supply of lifestyle metals.

Improved Scrap Metal Sorting — Over the years, metal recyclers have worked hard to improve the quality of recycled metals. Sorting has played a crucial role in the endeavour since it has enabled recyclers to classify scrap metals based on quality and source. For instance, scrap metal can be categorised into the home, prompt or obsolete grades. Home scrap refers to trimmings and rejects from metal mills and foundries. Home scrap metals can be recycled and reprocessed on site since their chemical properties are known. On the other hand, prompt scrap metal is waste from the fabrication of metal products and is often recycled at a fabrication shop. Lastly, obsolete scrap metal comes from end-of-life sources like automobiles, appliances and demolitions. The above sorting strategy helps recyclers determine the best scrap metal from particular products.

Supporting Sustainability in Sports — If the past few international competitions are anything to go by, it is safe to say that merging recycling and sports industries is good for the environment. Previously, medals were made from pure metal, but that has been slowly changing as recyclers and competition organisers turn to e-waste for metals. For instance, the 5000 medals issued to athletes during the 2020 Olympics were all made from recycled metals found in electronics. It is an example of how innovation in metal recycling continues to shape different industries.