Only 30% of Metals Are Being Recycled
The current overall metal recycling rate is around 30 percent. How do we recapture more material for recycling? The expansion of community recycling programs and public awareness help a lot. But what is the problem? Sometimes the recycling facilities are not there to capture all recycling materials. A lot of third world countries do not have a sophisticated recycling program. Garbage is still thrown on the highways or plastics are still being mixed in with household trash. People will not take garbage seriously until it becomes a problem. People are still working on ways to make recycling better.
Another important reason for the low recycling rate has to do with the design of various metal products. The growing complexity of various modern products and their material mix makes recycling increasingly difficult. For instance, a simple mobile phone can contain as many as 40 different elements. So, extracting every kind of materials from a mobile phone and reusing them in the production of new products makes it difficult.
Metal Recycling Technologies
Modern recycling technologies can identify many different kinds of metals. Never-the-less, there is still a need for even more effective recycling technologies to separate non-ferrous metals.
Magnets are used to separate ferrous metals from non-ferrous metals. It is one of the most important steps in the sorting process. As ferrous metals contain iron and they are attracted to the large magnets which easily pull out the iron materials from the mixed waste stream. In scrap yards, cranes fitted with an electromagnet can remove larger pieces of ferrous scrap.
When sorting metals from a mixed stream of recyclable material, paper is removed first leaving only plastics and metals. Then, electric currents are induced across the stream where only metals get affected. This process is called Eddy Current Separation. Although aluminum (cans) is not magnetic, this technology can levitate it and allow plastics to drop out of the process.
Recovering precious metals such as palladium, platinum, gold and other valuable metals such as copper, lead, and silver from electronic waste becomes economically viable only if enough scrap is collected. Such separation takes more technologically advanced and sophisticated recycling equipment. These days, in large recycling facilities, the use of sensors to identify metals through infra-red scanning and x-ray has become popular. Three common categories of metal sensing processes include biotechnology, hydrometallurgy, and pyrometallurgy. The use of these technologies can effectively improve metal recovery rates.
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