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Know the Difference Between Ferrous & Non-Ferrous Scrap

Scrap metal recycling is a lucrative, environmentally friendly business. Before you can get started, it’s imperative to understand the difference between ferrous and non-ferrous metals. In short, ferrous metals contain iron, while non-ferrous metals do not. This defining characteristic determines which uses and applications these metals are best suited for and how they are recycled.

What is Ferrous Metal?

Ferrous metals are alloys, meaning they contain several different metals, including iron. This makes ferrous metals strong, durable, and magnetic. Unfortunately, the high iron content also makes ferrous metals prone to rusting in wet environments.

Examples of ferrous metals include steel, carbon steel, alloy steel, cast iron, and wrought iron. These materials are used in the following applications:

  • Engines and car parts
  • Building materials
  • Industrial piping
  • Machinery
  • Shipping containers
  • Heating elements
  • Electrical applications
  • Nails and tools
  • Cookware
  • Sheet metal
  • Chains and fencing

What is Non-Ferrous Metal?

Non-ferrous metals do not contain iron, making them light, malleable, and non-magnetic. They are also much less likely to rust and corrode than ferrous metals.

Examples of non-ferrous metals include aluminum, copper, lead, nickel, tin, and zinc. The characteristics of these metals make them the ideal choice for numerous applications, including:

  • Aircraft parts
  • Food and drink cans
  • Sheet roofing
  • Outdoor signage
  • Power cables and batteries
  • Kitchen utensils
  • Galvanization (applying zinc to iron or steel to prevent rust)

Ferrous Scrap Metal Recycling

Ferrous scrap is the world’s most recycled material. In 2016, 65 million metric tons of iron and steel scrap valued at $15.9 billion was recycled worldwide. As a result, 40% of the world’s steel production is made from recycled ferrous scrap. Manufacturing new products from recycled metal consumes 75% less energy than using raw materials.

Non-Ferrous Scrap Metal Recycling

Aluminum and other non-ferrous metals maintain their chemical properties even after repeated recycling and reprocessing. As a result, they are infinitely recyclable. In fact, 75% of all aluminum processed since commercial manufacturing began in the 1880s is still in productive use today. The process is fast, too. Used aluminum cans can be recycled and put back on grocery store shelves in as little as 60 days.

Non-ferrous scrap metal recycling is critical to conserving natural resources. It comprises less than 10% of all scrap recycled in the United States by volume, but it represents nearly 50% of the total scrap value. In 2018, the U.S. recovered more than 9.2 million metric tons of non-ferrous scrap with an estimated worth of more than $34 billion.

How to Tell the Difference Between Ferrous & Non-Ferrous Metals

Both ferrous and non-ferrous metals are used in buildings, cars, plumbing and electrical systems, and more. This means scrap from a remodeling or construction site is likely to contain both kinds of metal.

Industrial magnets are the key to separating the two quickly and efficiently. After all, magnetic ferrous metal will stick to the magnet, while non-ferrous metal will remain on the ground. Industrial magnets come in several forms, including electromagnetic overhand magnets and drum separator magnets.

Other Useful Tools for Recycling Ferrous & Non-Ferrous Scrap

In addition to separating different kinds of metal, you also need industrial recycling equipment to cut, compress, and otherwise reduce scrap down to a manageable size. The tools you may find useful in the scrap metal recycling business include:

If you need assistance with selecting the right scrap metal recycling tools, turn to the specialists at Solid Equipment Company. We offer new, used, and refurbished equipment to meet your needs.

Call (866) 511-7720 or fill out our online contact form to discuss your ferrous and non-ferrous scrap metal recycling business with a knowledgeable industry expert.

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