While you’re probably aware of the existence of a large-scale global scrap metal recycling industry, you might be surprised by its size and scope. These days, a significant amount of the metal that ends up in finished products like appliances and structural steel is recycled or “recovered.” Moreover, scrap metal recycling is booming. This brave new world has some obvious and not-so-obvious benefits for the economy, the environment and the average consumer.
By and large, scrap metal recycling is less energy-intensive and more efficient than extracting and refining raw metals through traditional mining processes. Mining produces a number of environmental hazards, including poisonous runoff, groundwater pollution, habitat destruction and unstable geological conditions. What’s more, most types of mining require large inputs of fossil fuels.
Recycling scrap metal requires fossil fuel inputs as well. However, it’s generally regarded as less energy-intensive than mining. It also doesn’t contribute to groundwater pollution or create physical scars on the environment that can take hundreds of years to heal. After all, recycling plants don’t require massive open-pit mines to perform their work.
Waste Reduction, Space Production
Scrap metal recycling frees up landfill space for true junk like discarded food matter and non-recyclable plastics. Since many recyclable metal products are quite bulky, continued growth in the scrap metal recycling rate is likely to reduce the need for unsightly, space-consuming new landfills near our population centers. By keeping junkyards from overflowing, scrap metal recycling also reduces smaller-scale eyesores within our neighborhoods and encourages more productive land uses.
Tangible Economic Benefits
The recycling business is fairly labor-intensive, and many independent studies have shown that it contributes tens of billions of dollars to the country’s gross domestic product. In 2011, a seminal study by the Institute for Scrap Metal Recycling found that nearly 500,000 jobs had been created by the industry. Total federal, state and local tax receipts from the activities of scrap metal recycling outfits added up to more than $10 billion. Across all 50 states, the industry generated about $90 billion in economic activity.
It’s important to note that recycling jobs require high levels of skill and training. While wages within the industry vary by employer and location, typical scrap metal recycling jobs in high-wage states like New York often pay far more than the national median income.
Benefits for Consumers and End-Users
Recycling scrap metal has plenty of assorted benefits for consumers and businesses as well. For starters, scrap metal has a substantial cost that fluctuates in response to market forces like supply and demand. If you’ve ever sold an old car to your local wholesaler for “parts,” the amount that you were paid was based in large part on the value of the metal in your vehicle. Payments for old vehicles provide down-on-their-luck consumers with valuable infusions of liquidity during tough times.
Scrap metal is also used to produce plenty of new products that don’t appear to be recycled in any fashion. From smartphones and televisions to new cars and buildings, recycled scrap metal winds up in plenty of unexpected places.
Think Before You Toss
With so many clear benefits, it’s no wonder that scrap metal recycling has taken off in a big way. Whether you care about doing your part to minimize your environmental impact or simply want to make a few extra dollars, you can surely find a reason or two to recycle your old batteries, appliances and vehicles. Since scrap metal recycling isn’t going anywhere, it’s time to embrace it.
Whirlwind Steel manufactures metal buildings and components. They specialize in metal buildings for government institutions that are economically feasible and support future expansion.