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What is scrap metal?

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Quick Answer

Scrap metal is discarded metal that can be recycled. For example, car owners can elect to sell their vehicles as scrap metal, which entails reprocessing the material to create new products.

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What is scrap metal?
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Full Answer

The term "scrap metal" derives from the English word "scrap," indicating a small piece of something. In particular, a "scrap" refers to a part that is left over after the use of the greater whole. Scrap metal in cars refers to the parts of the car that are left over after the vehicle becomes unusable.

The processing of scrap metal usually begins in a wrecking yard, also called a "scrapyard." Some wrecking yards allow customers to purchase items and either sell them as individual objects or by weight. Interested buyers can acquire bulk metals such as stainless steel at a considerably lower price compared to retail purchasing costs.

Wrecking yards send scrap metal to smelters, where it is melted and recycled into new products. While there are potential dangers associated with reprocessing metals, including incidents involving radioactive and hazardous materials, recycling scrap metal has many environmental benefits. The US Environmental Protection Agency calculated a 75-percent savings in energy and 86-percent reduction in air pollution when recycled scrap metal was used instead of virgin iron ore.

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