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Ferrous and Non-Ferrous metals: What’s the difference?

When going about recycling scrap metals, a lot of people have trouble initially getting to grips with what the different types of metal are, the majority of us not being blacksmiths (who’d have guessed it). So in a bid to try and get you on a better footing for identifying the types of metal that your scrap consists of, this month we’ll be taking a closer look at the defining characteristics of the two types of metal you’re going to come across: ferrous and non-ferrous metals.

Ferrous metals

The defining feature of ferrous metals is that they contain iron and are therefore magnetic, at least for the most part. Just as the spinning iron core of the Earth is what provides the magnetic shield around the planet and causes our compasses to point north, so too is the iron we use magnetic. It is this quality of iron that makes it great for use in electrical appliances and motor cars, but its uses are not limited to this.

Nevertheless, ferrous metals can prove unruly due to their tendency to corrode if not properly protected. The ingredients you need for rust to occur are iron, water and oxygen, and when all three are present you can find that your iron-based product begins to disintegrate.

Steel is an alloy of iron and other elements such as carbon, so is also ferrous, but due to its mixture it is inherently better suited to resist rust. It is used for a variety of purposes ranging from in the frame of structures to stainless cutlery.

Non-ferrous metals

As ferrous metals consist of those that contain iron, it stands to reason that non-ferrous metals don’t contain any. Consequently they are also not magnetic, making the two types of metals easy to identify as long as you have a magnet handy.

The most common type of non-ferrous metal you can expect to find is aluminium, the metal with which we make cans, among other things. Copper is also a popular non-ferrous metal, its qualities being exquisitely suited for use in electrical wiring (due to its conductivity) and in plumbing (due to its non-rust quality and malleability).

For a full breakdown of the various metals you can find in each of these two categories, consult our article from last month and its descriptions of where to find the metals and their value.

At Hill Metal Recycling we pride ourselves on the fact that we are the leading recycler of ferrous and non-ferrous metals throughout Harlow, Hertfordshire and the surrounding areas. We are affiliated with the DVLA and Environment Agency bodies and are widely qualified and experienced to appropriately handle and dispose of all types of scrap metal. We offer a 24 hour scrap collection service, including cars, for commercial and some domestic needs. To discuss the best prices you can fetch for your scrap metals, don’t hesitate to get in contact with our friendly team today!