Why Ward Recycling is taking a 'made to be remade' approach to metal recycling

Written by: Donald Ward | Published:
Ward Recycling is taking a 'made to be remade' approach to its metal recycling process

Donald Ward, head of technical and recycling at Ward Recycling, looks at the concept of the circular economy and how Ward is creating partnerships that take a ‘made to be remade’ approach to metal waste recycling.

Instead of the traditional linear economy model which is built on a ‘make, use, dispose’ approach, a circular economy offers an alternative which keeps resources in use for as long as possible.

A circular economy adopts a ‘made to be remade’ approach to the manufacture and use of materials. It aims to extract maximum value from base materials over their lifetime.

Once the product reaches the end of its intended life, the products and materials are then recovered, recycled, regenerated and remade into something else. This is where metal recycling can come into its own as virtually all metals can be recycled into high-quality new metal.

A more circular economy has a number of key advantages, particularly in terms of recycling and waste management. Reducing waste and driving greater resource productivity are beneficial in delivering a more competitive UK economy.

By manufacturing products from recyclable materials, the industry is helping to reduce the environmental impacts of production and consumption in the UK and overseas and addressing the issue of scarcity of resources.

How does metal recycling contribute?

Metals recycling is an established, globally competitive industry. The UK metal recycling sector is worth over £5.6 billion and supplies environmentally friendly raw material to metals manufacturers throughout the world, significantly reducing energy usage and reliance on virgin resources.

The UK is among the five largest scrap metal exporters in the world. According to the British Metal Recycling Association (BMRA), 10 million tonnes of metal was recycled in the UK last year. EU figures indicate that using recycled raw materials, including metals, cuts CO2 emissions by some 200 million tonnes every year.

The recycling process varies for different metals, but metal recycling generally produces metals of equivalent quality. Using scrap metal, or secondary raw materials, means less use of precious natural resources that would be needed to make new metal compounds – such as iron ore in steelmaking, nickel in stainless steel, or alumina and bauxite in aluminium smelting.

The electric arc furnace (EAF) method uses scrap metal as the major raw material in steelmaking and can be used to produce high-quality tool steels and stainless steel. The BMRA estimates using recycled steel to make new steel reduces air pollution by over 80%, water use by 40% and water pollution by more than 70%.

Copper and aluminium scrap is also used by both primary and secondary producers – around 75-80% of the raw material is scrap copper. Scrap or secondary aluminium melts at around 660°C, therefore uses much less energy than other scrap, which has a melting temperature of 900°C.

What do we need to do now?

Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) is at the forefront of thinking on the circular economy, giving advice, data and guidance about realising economic benefits and achieving resource efficiency.

By 2020, it estimates that the benefit of adopting a circular economy approach in Europe would create 220mt less waste, use 190mt fewer resources and create 350mt tonnes of recycling. Its priority areas for achieving this include food and drink packaging, the built environment and manufacturing processes.

It takes far less energy to recycle metal than it does to mine, purify and shape it while also preserving key resources. By increasing metal recycling, businesses can contribute to a circular economy, reduce their carbon footprint, generate profits from resale of scrap metal and arisings, as well as reduce the raw materials used in manufacturing.

For more information on metal recycling, visit https://www.ward.com/metal-recycling

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