Metal Sustainability

The topic of climate change is on the news with increasing regularity. Many of our customers and our staff have asked questions about metal sustainability. So, this week, we have a guest post from our Administrative Services Manager, Whitney Clem, to discuss that very topic.

Take it away, Whitney.

Being in the new metal materials industry, I often wonder about environmental sustainability. Where does all of this metal come from? Where does all the scrap go? Is it recycled into anything useful?

I recently reconnected with a guy I grew up with, and it turns out he works for CASS, Inc., a metal recycling company that works to take scrap aluminum, steel, copper, nickel, and zinc and processes them into ingots and usable metal materials for customers. They are ISO 14001 certified, and committed to re-producing environmentally sustainable materials.

Their processes use less energy and create less pollution than the production of new materials. CASS is based out of Oakland, California.
They have several quotes on their website that are worth sharing:

“Recycling one ton of steel conserves 2500 lbs of iron ore, 1400 lbs of coal, and 120 lbs of limestone.”

“Once manufactured, aluminum can be recycled repeatedly, using only 5% of the energy, and generating only 5% of the emissions, associated with primary production.”

metal sustainability

Some Recycling Facts

  • The US annually recycles enough copper to provide the copper content for 26,000 Statues of Liberty.
  • Recycling aluminum creates 97% less water pollution than manufacturing aluminum from virgin ore.
  • On average, the US processes enough ferrous scrap daily, by weight, to build 25 Eiffel Towers every day of the year.
  • Recycling steel requires 60% less energy than producing it from virgin ore.
  • Energy saved using aluminum scrap vs virgin material is up to 92%.
  • Using recycled copper saves up to 90% of the energy needed to make new copper from virgin ores.

New Metal Sustainability?

In short, recycling is the best way to increase metal sustainability. Steel is something that deserves special attention. It is one of the only metals that is more or less infinitely recyclable. Aluminum and Zinc are also extremely recyclable.

But you can also use new material to be more sustainable. With proper maintenance, metals often have extremely long service lives. This in turn reduces the need for replacement parts. Design projects that utilize higher quality parts (usually from metal) instead of planned obsolescence is a big way to increase sustainability. Architecture is a good example: The Chrysler Building in New York City has a metal roof that has lasted about a century with minimal maintenance. Paris is full of buildings with zinc roofs that were installed when Napoleon was in charge! The longevity and recycleability of metals are the biggest advantages of it.

That’s food for thought!  More information about metals recycling can be found here, at the CASS website.
Also, Online Metals recently received a 5-Star Envirostar award for our sustainable practices!