Though new steel takes a lot of energy to produce, steel can be recycled over and over without any loss of strength or durability. Because steel scrap is an essential ingredient in making new steel, it is the most highly recycled material in the country. The number of tons of steel that is recycled every year exceeds that of paper, glass, plastic, and aluminum combined. The process of collecting, sorting, and recycling steel prevents other valuable resources from being consumed in the process of creating new steel. So throw those food cans into the recycle bin and sell your car for scrap once it has well and truly served its purpose. Eventually, that recycled metal will make its way to a steel supplier in Detroit, and you can hold your head up proudly, knowing you are benefitting your own family and the family of man.
What Happens to Scrapped Cars and Other Recycled Metal?
Metal scrap is taken to a recycling center where it is put through a grinder. The grinder breaks up cars and other items containing metal into chunks about the size of your fist to make it easier to sort and discard non-metal trash and non-ferrous metals (metals that do not contain iron). Powerful magnetic drums attract the steel bits, which are then dropped onto a conveyor belt to be inspected for clinging bits of trash. The rest is dumped into hobs that sort by size, with fiberglass, rubber, and cloth being separated out from the non-ferrous metals.
Once the steel scraps have been collected, they are melted down, impurities are removed, and the cleaned steel is then formed into flat sheets. The sheets are sold to manufacturers, who remold the metal into body parts for cars, beams for construction, cans for preserving food, and other useful things.
Visiting the Scrap Yard
Because just about all metals can be recycled, and because all metals have value, it makes sense to take your old metal appliances, car parts, or leftover construction metal (including wire) to the scrap yard for cash. In recent years, people with trucks have begun trawling neighborhoods, hoping to scavenge metal from dumpsters or trash cans or offering to take an unwieldy appliance off your hands. While you don’t need to start a new career as a full-time scrapper, you can make a few bucks by taking your own metal to the scrap yard. Food cans, aluminum beverage cans, and old foil from your kitchen are all good enough to be recycled—and you’ll get much better deals by bringing them in bulk. If your neighborhood doesn’t have a blue or green recycling box that is picked up by the city each week, offer to take their scraps and cans off their hands. They’ll feel good that the metal is being recycled and you can save it up until you’ve got a good load to bring to the scrap yard. Do you or your friends or neighbors have an old refrigerator that no longer works? Offer to take it in for them and split the cash from the sale. If you have a fridge built before 2001, you might have more than 100 pounds of steel right there. Obviously, you should never steal metal that isn’t yours. Aside from the moral implications of being a thief, there are negative legal consequences, as well. Scrap yards are always on the look-out for suspicious scrappers.
Steel in Your Life
Before the mid-1800s, steel was fairly rare. It was a difficult metal to make with the technology of the times, and it wasn’t until Sir Henry Bessemer came up with the brilliant idea of injecting air into the pig iron in order to remove carbon that cheap steal manufacture became possible. Now, steel touches your life in numerous ways. You eat from utensils made of stainless steel, steel cans coated with tin preserve food, and steel shaped into components for appliances and cars make your life easier in dozens of different ways. Stainless steel surfaces and implements are used in medical and hospital settings to preserve sanitary conditions. Steel is used in the construction of buildings you visit on a regular basis. In other words, steel is a metal our current civilization and standard of living depends on. By recycling steel, you are helping to preserve precious resources while contributing to industry and advancing technology. The scrap yard owner, the steel supplier in Detroit, and your family and friends are all grateful for your efforts in recycling steel and other metals.