When we think of recycling, most of us think of bins of glass bottles and aluminium cans. There's also industrial recycling, in which companies send the waste products of business and manufacturing to be turned into new products. But where exactly do these recycled materials go? In the case of one material, scrap metal, the answer is almost everywhere -- and when you consider the benefits of metal recycling, it's easy to see why.
Advantages of recycled metal
Scrap metal recycling is vital to both the environment and the economy because of its savings compared to manufacturing metal products from raw materials. To begin with, recycled items require less energy to manufacture. According to Clean Up Australia, a metal can made from recycled materials uses 87% less energy to create than one created from raw materials. With power generation a major source of harmful carbon emissions, this is an important reduction. Of course, making products from recycled metal also cuts down on the depletion of the planet's mineral resources
Products made from recycled metal
Recycled metal plays a role in almost every kind of commercial metal product. Car bodies, aeroplanes, food and drink cans, tools and even train tracks all contain significant percentages of recycled material. Metal waste from steel production even forms part of the roads we drive on; this waste material is crushed and used as part of the grading aggregate that forms a base for road surfaces. Increasingly, the metals in high-tech products like smartphones and televisions are being recycled to save the expense of mining these expensive resources.
Creative uses of scrap metal
Most everyday products that contain recycled scrap metal are indistinguishable from the same products made with new materials. For some people, however, the distinctive appearance and character of post-industrial metal are exactly what they want from it. Reclaimed metal has become increasingly popular as a material for architecture, art and furniture. Creators who work in this material don't want it to look exactly like a new metal piece -- they want to showcase the wear, distress and use it has experienced. Whether it's dining tables made from factory workbenches or chairs made from car bonnets, these creations showcase Australia's industrial history in a modern artistic context.
Whether in the tools we use, the food we buy or the art we admire, recycled metal is all around us. Despite this, Australia still doesn't recycle as much of its metal waste as it could, and dumping of scrap metal remains a problem. Increasing metal recycling benefits everyone, and there's still plenty of work to be done to achieve that goal.