4 Reasons to Recycle Scrap Metal

| BlackHawk Team

A scrap metal recycling program is a smart way to help your business operate sustainably and more profitably. Those metal shavings, particles, machine oils and solid leftovers in your shop have real value. So do worn cutting tool bits. Ferrous, nonferrous and precious metals can be recycled. Here are four reasons why a metal recycling program makes dollars and sense:

For the planet. Recycling helps to preserve the environment by mitigating the impact of mining new ores. The ripple effects include cleaner water, less soil erosion and wastewater runoff, fewer landfill sites and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Energy savings from using recycled aluminum and steel are 95% and 60%, respectively. Recycling is one of the best ways a company can contribute to green initiatives and sustainable practices.

For the economy. The recycling industry represents a huge cog in the global economy. In 2017, the US alone exported $9 billion in recycled nonferrous metals and $4 billion in recycled ferrous metals to more than 75 countries. Since 2000, net exports of US scrap have netted more than $200 billion to the nation’s balance of trade. As a job creator, recycling employed more than 534K Americans and generates $117 billion in economic activity in 2017.

For safety. Systematic removal of metal scrap from your shop floor and physical plant helps to protect your workers. You lower the risk of respiratory illnesses caused by particulate inhalation. Accidental cuts, falls or other injuries are greatly reduced as well. Workers feel and work safer in a cleaner, organized, waste-managed environment. You’ll see the results in improved productivity.

For your bottom line. There’s money in that scrap. Industrial metal recyclers can be found in every state. These companies specialize in collection, removal, processing and repurposing of metallic waste.

Typically the recycler (or “scrapper”) conducts an on-site audit of your facility to assess the type, form and volume of your scrap metal. A number of analytical tests (sidebar) determine the specific metals present and in what proportions.  The recycler assays the value of a sample of your scrap and provides an estimate of the metal yield and your payback for “selling” the scrap to them. Once you agree to their services, they will provide collection bins designed for the nature of your scrap — solids, shrapnel, liquid, sludge, dust, whatever. Then they haul it away for processing. The program becomes part of your daily operations.

The benefit to the business is the payback, or “rebate”, from recycling. This effectively reduces your material costs.

Metals and yields

The ferrous metals, iron and steel, are the most widely recycled metals. Though the lowest in yield per ton, the sheer volume of iron and steel makes recycling them worthwhile. Brass and aluminum fetch more return, and copper is even more valuable. The precious metals (gold, silver, platinum and palladium) top the yield charts. Prices fluctuate in real time; visit a site like iscrapapp.com for current prices. If it’s metal scrap, there’s a demand for it.

Learn more about metal recycling

Visit the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) website for complete information from the recycling industry’s major trade organization. ISRI offers free resources, fact sheets, publications, training and industry news along with memberships for affiliated businesses. If you are starting a recycling program, OSHA offers a 10-hour course on safe recycling practices.

BlackHawk offers a selection of more than 700 dumpsters, hoppers and waste containers for handling shop scrap.

CAUTION: Always wear protective gear when handling scrap metal, including gloves, safety glasses and a dust mask.


  • LIBS (Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy) — Laser-based; identifies metals in seconds
  • Rockwell — Determines metal type based on hardness
  • Spark Test — Grinds a sample to create a spark stream which is analyzed to identify the metal


  • In 2017, the US processed $15.9 billion in ferrous scrap
  • Ferrous scrap recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions (from virgin processing) by 58%
  • Nonferrous metals like copper, aluminum and tin retain their physical properties during recycling and can be recycled an infinite number of times
  • Approximately 50-60% of aluminum consumption comes from recycled material
    • Source: ISRI, 2018.