10 Advantages and Disadvantages of Recycling Metals in Chemistry

The generation of waste, in general, is a huge environmental problem and metal waste is no exception. Metallic waste typically comes from machining and manufacturing processes and involves the production of metal scraps, such as swarf, chips, turnings, filings, and shavings. Ignoring leftover metal pieces and obtaining raw metals from ores can not only increase environmental pollution but also diminish our planet’s natural resources. 

By using effective and efficient measures against the metal waste problem, we can protect our environment and create a greener place to live. While metal recycling is one of the most optimal ways to reduce the amount of metal waste, the process has its benefits and drawbacks one should consider. Here are 10 advantages and disadvantages of recycling metals in chemistry. 

Advantages of Recycling Metals in Chemistry 

Recycling metals in chemistry involves the collection, sorting, and processing of waste metal to create new metal materials that can be later used for various purposes. 

The advantages of recycling metals in chemistry include reducing metal waste released into the environment, decreasing the need to obtain raw metals from ores, protecting the earth’s natural resources, utilizing fewer resources during the recycling process, and creating a myriad of job opportunities.  

Below are the pros of recycling metals in chemistry:

  • Decreases the Amount of Metal Waste Released into the Environment

Generally speaking, recycling is fundamental to reducing the amount of waste released into the soil, water, and air. As environmental pollution of metals has become a huge problem due to its adverse effects on living beings and the atmosphere, decreasing the amount of metal waste is crucial. 

Instead of letting metallic waste accumulate in nature, metal recycling makes use of the leftover metal pieces and creates new materials that manufacturers can utilize for a variety of purposes. 

Besides, since environmental pollution causes heat to trap around the earth, it gradually leads to global warming. Although it is pretty much impossible to prevent global warming from happening, recycling metal waste allows us to indirectly slow the process and protect our planet.  

Clearly, recycling metals in chemistry offers plenty of environmental benefits, including the reduction of the levels of metal pollution in soil, water, and air. 

  • Reduces the Need to Collect New Raw Metals from Ores

One of the most obvious advantages of recycling metals is that it decreases the need to extract raw metals from ores. As obtaining metals through mining is an expensive, time-consuming, and energy-intensive process, recycling as much metal waste as possible is crucial. In fact, metal extraction requires both financial and physical resources, meaning that you would have to invest lots and lots of money to keep things going. 

Besides, extracting metals from ores contributes to Earth pollution, meaning that recycling already-existing metal wastes instead of collecting new raw materials from ores could mitigate several forms of environmental pollution. 

According to the American Geosciences Institute, modern mining activities are strictly regulated in the US and strive to mitigate environmental consequences. However, reducing the need to extract metals through mining is still crucial for living on a greener and more eco-friendly planet. 

  • Slows the Consumption of the Earth’s Resources

For some reason, we, humans, keep depleting our planet’s natural resources, even though we know they are limited. The main reason for this might be the fact that we are oftentimes ignorant about what future generations will do without all the resources we have at the moment. Luckily, scientists and environmental activists spread awareness of the importance of protecting the Earth’s natural resources, making people conscious of the problem. 

As one of the best ways to slow the consumption of our natural resources is to make the most of what we already have, recycling metals is essential. By reusing and recycling metal scraps as many times as possible, we will preserve our planet’s natural reserves and ensure that future generations have sufficient resources to live a healthier life. 

This article by Conserve Energy Future explains the importance of protecting the earth’s natural resources by listing some of the causes, effects, and solutions to the global problem. 

  • Recycling a Metal Requires Fewer Resources than Producing a Metal from an Ore

Another advantage of recycling metals, especially when compared to obtaining them through mining, is that recycling requires fewer resources than extraction. As noted by Entrec Responsible Recycling, 92% of energy can be saved when recycling aluminum, while recycling copper requires 90% less energy. In case of recycling steel, 56% of energy can be saved. 

Along with saving some energy, recycling metals can reduce the need to use water or contaminate it. According to SteelnCall, recycling metals leads to a 40% reduction in water use and a 76% reduction in water pollution. 

Besides, producing different products from scratch would take plenty of time, energy, and financial resources. So, companies often use recycled metals to manufacture new products while cutting out the first few steps of the process.

Evidently, recycling metals is advantageous not only for protecting our environment but also from an economical perspective. 

  • Creates Job Opportunities for the Community

Along with being more eco-friendly, cost-effective, and less energy-intensive than metal extraction, recycling metals in chemistry offers plenty of career opportunities to society. Whether you have a degree in chemistry or you are an engineer, you can find a suitable job for you in this field. 

Besides, recycling metals creates both technical and non-technical job opportunities. As an experienced manager, you can also work in the industry to maintain staff while ensuring a safe and legal work environment for the employees.   

Would you prefer being a driver for a metal recycling company? You can totally find a suitable job for you. Pretty much every metal recycling company needs drivers to transport metal scraps from one location to another. 

If you are more into IT stuff, you can also get a perfect job at a metal recycling company. And believe it or not, you do not really have to be an expert in metal recycling. 

Disadvantages of Recycling Metals in Chemistry 

While recycling metals is a very earth-friendly process, there are some disadvantages that should be considered. 

The disadvantages of recycling metals in chemistry include not being able to recycle all metal scraps, some metal scraps being impossible to sort or separate from each other, the need for plenty of resources, the time and energy it takes to collect and sort metals, and the need to build special sorting and recycling facilities and factories. 

Below are the cons of recycling metals in chemistry:

  • Not All Metal Scraps or Items Can Be Recycled

One of the main disadvantages of metal recycling is that not every metal scrap or metallic item can be recycled. For instance, metal items that have been contaminated cannot be recycled. Some examples include paint and motor oil cans, propane gas tanks, and other types of metal containers that had previously been used for storing different materials. That is because even if you thoroughly clean these items, you have no guarantee that all the chemicals have been removed from the surface. Therefore, designated facilities avoid recycling such products. 

This also applies to metallic items that have been covered with other materials. A perfect example is a pan or a pot the surface of which is coated with a layer of Teflon (polytetrafluoroethylene). Although such pots and pans are ideal for cooking, the Teflon layer can lead to the production of environmental hazards if being recycled. 

In addition to that, radioactive or toxic metals or items containing radioactive or metals cannot be recycled. Examples include uranium, plutonium, mercury, and lead. These metals are either too difficult or too dangerous to recycle. To protect the environment and living beings, recycling facilities simply avoid working on these metals. 

  • Some Metal Scraps Cannot Be Sorted or Separated from Each Other

Another drawback of recycling metals is that it may be pretty challenging or sometimes even impossible to sort or separate metal scraps from each other. On some occasions, metal scraps are so tiny that it is hardly possible to sort them accurately. As sorting metal pieces is an essential step of the overall metal recycling process, being unable to sort them properly leads to numerous complications. 

And in many cases, metallic items are made from metal alloys, which are pretty challenging to separate. Although there is a technique called liquation for separating the constituents of alloys from one another, it may take too much time, energy, and finances to complete the task. 

  • Requires Lots of Resources

While recycling metals is more cost-effective and less energy-intensive than extracting metals from ores, it still requires plenty of resources. Before a company recycles metals, the overall process has to be organized. Then, the materials have to be collected, sorted, and transported to the designated facilities.

Therefore, recycling metals requires lots of workers within and outside the facilities, special vehicles, fuel, transportation, and machinery. Clearly, this is linked to finances, and recycling metals is not as cheap as one might think. Still, it is less expensive than extracting metals through mining.

  • Collection and Sorting Take Lots of Time and Energy

Although it may sound pretty straightforward, the collection and sorting of metal scraps and metallic objects require plenty of time and energy. Once the metal scraps are collected, they are typically transported to sorting facilities. And sorting is one of the critical steps of metal recycling. 

First, professionals separate recyclable and non-recyclable scraps and objects from each other. This is an important step that ensures the quality of the final recycled product. Without having high-quality starting materials, it is impossible to create recycled metals that are worth it. This is why the sorting process usually involves pretty strict quality checkups. 

The sorting process also involves the identification and classification of metal scraps based on their composition. This minimizes the risks of mixing different metals together throughout the overall metal recycling process

So, one of the disadvantages of recycling metals in chemistry is that collecting and sorting metal scraps and objects is a tedious process that requires plenty of time, energy and other resources.

  • Increases the Need for Building More Sorting and Recycling Facilities and Factories

Last but not least, recycling metals in chemistry increases the need for building special sorting and recycling facilities. While having access to such factories can be beneficial for creating high-quality products from recycled metal scraps, building these facilities requires even more resources than metal recycling itself. 

Along with that, various construction activities involve the use of pollutants and toxic chemicals, having a significant impact on land, water, and air pollution. Some common construction sources contributing to environmental pollution include fossil fuels (diesel, gas, oil),  cement, and glues. 

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