Ferrous metals are mainly composed of iron and have magnetic properties. Steel, an iron alloy containing carbon, is by far the most-recycled material in the world. Total steel production in 2008 reached 1.3 billion tonnes, of which over 500 million tonnes were made from scrap metal. The most commonly recycled items are scrap from industrial processes, end-of-life products such as containers, vehicles, appliances, industrial machinery and construction materials.

The use of scrap metal has become an integral part of the modern steelmaking industry, improving the industry’s economic viability and reducing environmental impact. Compared to ore extraction, the use of secondary ferrous metals significantly reduces CO2 emissions, energy and water consumption and air pollution. At the same time, the recycling of steel makes more efficient use of the earth’s natural resources.

The most commonly used non-ferrous metals are aluminum, copper, lead, zinc, nickel, titanium, cobalt, chromium and precious metals. Millions of tonnes of nonferrous scrap are recovered annually and used by smelters, refiners, ingot makers, foundries, and other manufacturers. Secondary materials are essential to the industry’s survival because even new metals often require the combined use of recycled materials.

Aluminum, which is the most abundant metal in the earth’s crust, is not surprisingly one of the most recycled materials today, after steel and paper. It is also the only packaging material that completely covers the cost of its own collection and processing at recycling centers. Recovering aluminum for recycling is not only economically viable, but energy efficient and ecologically sound.

Due to the limited availability of these metals, the unrestricted flow of non-ferrous scrap from country to country according to industrial and consumer demand is crucial. BIR has consistently campaigned for the free movement of secondary raw materials to avoid shortages in certain geographical areas and surpluses in others. Import barriers could limit the supply to the manufacturing industry in some countries.

High Temp Alloys
Stainless steel is an iron alloy that contains nickel and chromium to protect it against corrosion and rust. Also known as inox steel, this material is remarkably strong and resistant to high temperatures providing optimum performance under severe environmental and chemical conditions. Stainless steel’s inherent physical properties make it ideal for use in the construction, automotive and transportation sectors. Its versatility also makes it a popular material in household items such as kitchen appliances and cutlery.

The demand for stainless steel has doubled in the last ten years, with production increasing to more than 25 million tonnes a year. In this context, the recycling industry has become a vital player in providing a stable supply of quality secondary raw material.

Besides nickel and chromium, other major alloying elements used in combination with steel include; molybdenum, titanium, tungsten and vanadium. These metals are scarce and only available in very few parts of the word, which makes extraction costly and difficult. Recycling is therefore essential to avoid depleting the planet’s natural resources.