Did you know that in the U.S. alone, 56 million tons of scrap iron and steel are recycled on a yearly basis. That number does not include the 1.5 million tons of scrap copper, 2.5 million tons of scrap aluminum, 1.3 million tons of scrap lead, 300,000 tons of scrap zinc and 800,000 tons of scrap stainless steel, and smaller quantities of other metals that go through secondary metal processing, as reported by OSHA.
What is that recycled metal good for? According to the Northeast Recycling Council, scrap metal is one of those foundation materials that can be refashioned into many new uses. Roads, bridges, automobiles, aircraft, shipping containers, home furnishings, and many other industrial and manufactured goods utilize recycled metal because it is cheaper than mining natural resources, which are becoming scarce. In addition, alloys of various metals can produce stronger and less corrosive materials that may be more suitable for specific environments.
ISRI, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, reported that in 2016, the U.S. exported 11.2 million metric tons of ferrous scrap (excluding stainless and alloy steel scrap) valued at $2.6 billion to nearly 60 countries worldwide.
ISRI estimates that nonferrous metal scrap — including highly valued precious metal scrap — accounted for more than half of the total value of U.S. scrap recycling industry earnings in 2016. More than 8 million metric tons of nonferrous scrap valued at approximately $30 billion was processed in the United States last year from a wide array of consumer, commercial, and industrial sources: everything from copper and precious metal circuitry in electronic devices, to soft-drink containers, automobile batteries and radiators, aluminum siding, airplane parts, and more.
Rocky Mountain Recycling in Denver, Colorado USA, has been buying, recycling, and selling scrap metals since 1936. They utilize a baler, guillotine shear, portable shears, hydraulic cranes, and scales to weigh steel loads during their processing of over 100,000 tons of scrap metal per year.
In order to check their incoming metals and sort the various metals and alloys, including precious metals, titanium, nickel, aluminum, etc., they utilize handheld XRF analyzers for scrap metal identification. XRF analyzers can verify elements of interest in virtually all types of metal alloys, from trace levels to commercially pure metals, and are capable of distinguishing alloy grades that are nearly identical in composition to one another.
This helps them upgrade their stainless and alloys, and in general it gives them confidence that they are shipping the mills certain segregated aluminum or nickel alloys. They also have been able to identify low residual elements in their steel to make sure steel customers are happy. You can hear the president of the Rocky Mountain Recycling company talk about the benefits of XRF analyzers in this video.
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