Are scrap non-ferrous metals better than iron?
Recently, there has been a lot of talk in the British industry over how much more valuable non-ferrous scrap metal is for production. And the UK is far from the only country to have this conversation going on – most European countries are actually shifting their focus to non-ferrous metal as a source of valuable scrap. According to experts, this trend is actually just the beginning – these conversations and this line of thinking is looking to only intensify in the upcoming years. How is that possible? Where did this even come from and where is it going?
But what even are non-ferrous metals?
To put it simply, non-ferrous metals are metals that do not contain iron in any way, shape or form. There is a whole range of these metals, including the likes of aluminium, copper, brass, cobalt, nickel, tungsten, etc. They are currently some of the most sought-after materials in Europe as well as the whole world in general. This is due to their incredible durability, plasticity, resistance to corrosion and extreme temperatures, as well as their ability to be combined with other metals to produce alloys. All of these properties make them some of the most eco-friendly materials in the world, which makes them a dream come true for anyone adhering to European industry regulations. They’re mostly used in the machine industry though that’s far from their only use.
So what’s so special about them?
Non-ferrous metals have various properties that make them incredible material for specific tasks. Check out this list of non-ferrous metals used in the EU, as well as their properties:
- Aluminium – fairly common, as it’s the third most abundant element on Eath, it has a very low density and is highly resistant to corrosion. As a result, it’s commonly used for the manufacture of a great variety of products, including cans, wires, and even spacecraft elements.
- Copper – has a distinct, orange colour. It’s most commonly used in electronics and construction elements.
- Brass – used in many industrial elements, valued for its resistance to seawater. Due to its supreme durability, it’s used in areas where a lot of force is involved, such as ammunition and the shipbuilding industry.
- Nickel – highly resistant to abrasion and corrosion, nickel is most commonly used for galvanic coating of steel items. It’s also a metal you’ve most definitely encountered on numerous occasions, as its alloys are used in coin manufacture.
- Lead – is quite soft, has a blue and grey colouration, and is most commonly used for batteries, pipes, etc. It is valued for its resistance to acid.
- Zinc – most commonly used for coating steel sheets, which grants them corrosion resistance.
The EU industry sector is constantly growing, and with it, so does the demand for non-ferrous metals. As a result, more and more of these materials are being recycled – far more than ferrous materials. Over just the last decade, the amount of aluminium recycled has increased tenfold. At this point, almost 30% of all metal used in the industry comes from recycling.
All this has happened due to the fact that production of secondary (recycled) aluminium is 60% cheaper than that of regular aluminium and is far less energy-heavy, requiring 20 times less energy compared to producing primary aluminium.
There is no denying that, apart from providing a number of economic boons, this solution is very environmentally friendly. Air pollution can be reduced by as much as 95% through aluminium recycling, while water pollution is reduced by a whopping 97%. No wonder recycling non-ferrous metals is becoming increasingly popular! There is also the additional benefit of not having to rely on outside sources for metal – all the metal we need for our industry is here. We just need to put it to good use! If we manage to do that, everyone is a winner.