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How is Scrap Metal Recycled?

These days, people are more concerned about their environmental impact than ever before.

From soaring temperatures to extreme weather events around the world, many people are changing their habits to try and minimise their own carbon footprint.

Recycling is a day-to-day activity that can be done to help with this, and a whole host of scrap metal materials have the potential to be recycled.      

But while more and more people are taking the time to recycle any scrap metal they may come across in their homes or workplaces, what happens to the scrap remains a mystery for many.

In this blog, the Hill Metal Recycling team will outline the scrap metal process explaining how the journey your metal goes through as it’s recycled. 


The first step of the scrap metal recycling process starts with you.

You’ll need to collect all of your scrap metal in one place, readying it for transportation to the scrap metal yard or processing facility. 

If it’s scrap metal from your home, place your scrap in two boxes- one for ferrous and one for non-ferrous metals. If you’re unsure which is which, use a magnet. Ferrous metals will stick to it as they contain iron. 

If you operate a business or organisation that handles or produces large quantities of scrap, it might be worthwhile setting up metal recycling bins to collect your waste. Once you’ve collected all of the waste that you want to recycle, you can take it to your local scrap metal recycling facility.

Some scrap metal businesses, like Hill Metal Recycling, will also offer a scrap metal collection service that will head directly to your location to collect the waste.   


Once the waste has been collected, sorting will take place.

While you may have already sorted the metal prior to collection, usually this will be done again to ensure quality control. 

In addition to being sorted into ferrous and non-ferrous metals, the scrap will be sorted in other ways. First, metal will be extracted from other materials – for example, plastic being removed from wires. 

They will also be sorted by type and cleanliness. 


Next, comes the processing stage.

This will see a number of things happen to the metal in order to get it ready for recycling. First, metals will be compacted and squeezed together to ensure they take up as small amount of space as possible.

Then, they’ll be cut into smaller pieces using hydraulic machinery. Hammer mills will then be used to shred the metal into even smaller chunks. 

It’s important that the metal is small as this makes the melting stage easier. 


Using a large furnace, the metal will then start to be melted. 

Different metals have different melting points as they’re made up of contrasting properties. This is why sorting is so important at the beginning of the recycling process.

The length of time it takes to melt the metals depends on the size of the furnace and the type of metal being melted. It can vary from a few minutes to many hours. 

While the furnace does use energy, it’s a far more environmentally friendly practice than mining for new metal. 


To ensure the metal’s quality, a purification stage will make sure to rid of any contaminants. 

Electrolysis is a common purification method, and this involves sending an electric current through the metal to dissolve any impurities. 


Solidifying the metal is the final step before it is sent out. 

Chemicals are added to the metal to create the necessary properties, and the metal is then sent through a conveyor belt to a cooling chamber that solidifies them. 

In some cases, the metal will be melted into sheets and in others, it will be compacted into blocks – this is known as baling. Usually, this is done to make them easier to transport. 


Which leads us neatly onto the transportation stage. 

Once the metal has been purified and solidified, it will be loaded onto trucks and sent out to manufacturing facilities where new products can be made from them. 


At Hill Metal Recycling, we have spent more than 25 years recycling scrap metal across Harlow, Essex and Hertfordshire. We’re experienced in handling all kinds of ferrous and non-ferrous metals, and if you have excess metal you’re looking to dispose of in a sustainable way, we’re here to help. To find out more about what we do, simply get in touch with our team today.