Why Should We Recycle Metals?

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Recycling metals offers many benefits, including conserving natural resources, reducing emissions and creating new jobs. Forbes reports that recycling metals supported over 450,000 jobs in the United States as of 2011, generating over $90 billion annually.

Recycling has a positive economic impact on the trade balance of the United States. After reclaiming the metals, recyclers ship them to other countries to use as raw materials for manufacturing of products that are then shipped back to the United States.

Recycling benefits natural-resource conservation in several ways. Recycling reduces the need to mine new materials, saving metal ores for future generations. The process also conserves energy. With copper and aluminum, the recycling process requires 10 percent or less of the energy used for refining raw ore. Each ton of recycled aluminum saves 14-megawatt hours of electricity. While the energy savings are less for steel, the process decreases consumption by almost 50 percent and reduces the use of coal and limestone required for processing ore.

In the electronics industry, reclaiming metals, including copper and precious metals, is also beneficial. The process reduces the materials sent to landfills. Devices, including small cell phones and computer mice, have metal parts that add significantly to the recycling effort.