How Scrap Metal Recycling Has Evolved Over Time

Recycling professionals and academics constantly develop and implement new ideas to make recycling more efficient, prevalent, and affordable.

FREMONT CA: Today, the scrap metal recycling business is at the forefront of innovation, leveraging new technology to process more material more efficiently, accurately, and quickly. The recycling sector has embraced technology to increase recycling rates, keep up with the changing materials and products entering the waste stream, and boost profitability for scrap metal recyclers.

The following are just a few instances of how scrap metal recycling has evolved over the decades.

X Marks the Spot: X-rays are no longer reserved for the doctor's office. Similar to how electromagnets identify steel, dedicated aluminum recyclers use X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy to locate and characterize valuable aluminum. Aluminum's unusual combination of lightness and durability makes it a metal that recyclers and manufacturers cannot afford to waste. Handheld XRF detectors evaluate and report on sample material's composition, allowing recyclers to streamline their operations while still ensuring the quality of their products to their clients.

Artificial Intelligence: No analysis of the evolution of scrap metal recycling in recent years would be complete without mentioning artificial intelligence and the significant advancements represented by this technology. Today, recycling centers employ highly sophisticated robots that operate alongside humans, sorting scrap metals using optical sorting equipment. This helps them classify and identify precious non-ferrous metals such as aluminum, copper, tin, and zinc. These robots' capabilities enable recycling operations to strategically reallocate human resources while the bots handle the heavy lifting.

Increased Reclamation of Fluff: Perhaps the last word one chooses to describe an automobile is "fluffy." Indeed, auto recyclers refer to all components of a car that are not comprised of steel as "fluff." This includes rubber, plastic, and textiles, as well as anything else that remains after the imposing and powerful automotive shredder destroys a discarded car and the electromagnet extracts the steel. Previously, the fluff was destined for the landfill, but with the addition of various trace metals to future fluff—particularly harmful ones like cadmium and lead—critical it's for recyclers to extract as much value as possible from these remnants before sending automobiles to the shredder. Automobile recycling techniques have advanced to roughly 85 percent of each vehicle that leaves the road is recycled into new automobiles or other products.