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The Benefits of Metal Recycling: Why Recycle Metal?

Metal Recycling Helps the Economy, the Environment and Global Trade

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The United States recycles 150 million metric tons of scrap materials annually, including 85 million tons of iron and steel, 5.5 million tons of aluminum, 1.8 million tons of copper, 2 million tons of stainless steel, 1.2 million tons of lead and 420,000 tons of zinc, according to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI). Other metals such as brass, bronze, magnesium and tin are recycled as well.

What are the benefits of recycling all that metal?

U.S. Exports Recycled Metal

In 2008, the scrap recycling industry generated $86 billion and supported 85,000 jobs. The recycled materials that the industry processes into raw material feedstock every year are used for industrial manufacturing around the world. In 2008, the United States exported $28.6 billion—roughly 44 million metric tons—of scrap commodities, which contributed significantly to U.S. trade balances.

Metal Recycling Saves Energy

Recycling scrap metal reduces greenhouse gas emissions and uses less energy than making metal from virgin ore. The amount of energy saved using various recycled metals compared to virgin ore is up to:

-- 92 percent for aluminum
-- 90 percent for copper
-- 56 percent for steel

Metal Recycling Conserves Natural Resources

Metal recycling also conserves natural resources. Recycling one ton of steel conserves 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone. Recyling a ton of aluminum conserves up to 8 tons of bauxite ore and 14 megawatt hours of electricity.

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