Alloy there! Why Accurate Metal Sorting Is Critical For Scrap Metal Recyclers

Alloy there! Why Accurate Metal Sorting Is Critical For Scrap Metal Recyclers

The scrap metal industry in Australia has a market value of $2.4 billion. And alloys are the big prize.

With a recycling rate of 90% in 2018-19 according to the 2020 National Waste Report, it outperforms any other material category.

Scrap and steel industries invested millions of dollars nationwide into building infrastructure so that scrap metal can be collected, sorted, shredded, and processed throughout Australia.

A snapshot Of The Scrap Metal Industry In Australia

Metal scrap generated 5.6 million tonnes, or 223 kg per capita, in 2018-19.

Australian scrap metal is melted as feedstock for the country’s $29 billion steel industry, which produces 5.5 million tonnes of steel a year and employs 110,000 Australians (2017-18) and generates $29 billion in revenue annually.

A total of 24.2% of BlueScope’s Port Kembla Steelworks’ products are made from recycled or recovered steel.

Rose Read, CEO of the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC), says using ferrous scrap as a substitute for virgin ore has huge carbon emission reduction benefits.

“On average almost two tonnes of carbon dioxide are emitted for every tonne of steel produced from virgin ore, accounting for approximately 7% of global greenhouse gas emissions. By comparison, a tonne of steel produced from scrap produces just 25% of the emissions of scrap made from virgin ore,” Read told the ABC.

Exporters are enjoying record prices on the global scrap metal market as a result of the boom. Shredded scrap metal prices last year traded below the 10-year average of $330 ($425) per tonne. It dropped as low as $US270 ($348) in 2017. Today a tonne of scrap metal can fetch a staggering $US430 ($554) per tonne.

Steel scrap exports from Australia and New Zealand have risen sharply. In 2019, Oceania countries exported 250,016 tonnes of scrap to India, up 24.5% over the previous year.

Metal wastes constitute the bulk of Australia’s waste exports, including cast iron wastes, ferrous metals, gold, copper, and aluminum scrap (82% of the total value). 

Scrap metals were the sole or main export to Bangladesh (100%), Taiwan (99%) and China (85%). Pakistan also received mostly metals (80%) and some textiles (12%). Exports to Thailand and Indonesia were split between metals and paper and cardboard (75% to 25% for Thailand and 23% to 74% for Indonesia). Vietnam received metals (59%) and agricultural organics (35%). Exports to India were a mix of scrap metals (55%), paper and cardboard (32%) and tyres (11%). Malaysia received a mix of paper and cardboard (36%), metals (28%) and plastics (20%). The Republic of Korea received metals (51%), agricultural organics (28%) and hazardous waste (14%).

Meanwhile, scrap metal is the 17th largest export earner for New Zealand. Around 500,000 tonnes of ferrous and 50,000 tonnes of non-ferrous scrap metal are generated each year. Of that 45% of ferrous scrap metal and 90% of non-ferrous metal is exported.

Metals that are not recycled can end up being dumped, left on-site as an environmental pollutant, or they can end up in a landfill. These are all unwise, considering the industry’s efforts to do as much as it can for the environment, and how landfill capacity is decreasing.

It takes longer for scrap metal to decompose in landfills than other waste. Scrap metal left in landfills degrades, poisoning the soil and causing pollution, among other issues.

Recovered scrap metal is a major activity for industry firms. Metal recovery refers to the process of fabricating new, usable products or materials from scrap. Metals frequently recycled are steel, copper, aluminum, zinc, lead, nickel, and titanium.

Take the guesswork out of your scrap metal operation

Scrap can be contaminated or contain hazardous elements if its chemical composition is unclear, indicating a risk for quality, safety, and regulatory compliance.

Handheld X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysers provide accurate, reliable analysis of scrap metal materials during scrap metal operations.

Niton XRF analysers can verify elements of interest in virtually all types of metal alloys, from trace levels to commercially pure metals, and are capable of distinguishing alloy grades that are nearly identical in composition to one another.

  • Positively identify alloys at material transfer points and guarantee product quality
  • Determine metal composition for accurate sorting
  • Identify tramp/trace elements
  • Get nondestructive analysis in seconds, with little or no need for sample preparation
  • Increase the speed of metal processing operations
“Sorting is very important because we need to guarantee that the material we are shipping to consumers is what we say it is …. If it isn’t, the mill or foundry we’re shipping to could reject the load or downgrade it, and that would hurt our reputation — and our bottom line.” – Recycling Magazine, owner of a Massachusetts-based salvage yard.

The Importance Of Alloy Metal Verification For Industry

The verification of metal alloys for quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) has never been more important for product reliability and safety – particularly in the automotive, aerospace and steel manufacturing industries. 

From metal production through final product assembly, the potential for material mix-ups is real. And material mix-ups can lead to product failures. 

With all types of metal manufacturing and fabrication operations facing increasingly stringent safety regulations, today’s best practices include testing 100% of critical materials.

XRF analysers are important tools for performing material identification and alloy confirmation.

The Niton XL2 Plus

Features & Benefits

  • 2W X-Ray Tube
  • Silicon Drift Detector (SDD) for light element detection
  • Detector ProGuard Protection
  • Micro Camera
  • Hot Swap Battery
  • Touch Screen and Directional Keys
  • Password Protected Security
  • IP54 Certified (Splash/ Dust Proof)
  • Nose Cone Alignment Guides

Specific Scrap Alloy Metal Applications

  • Verification of metals and alloys in manufacturing
  • Quality Assurance testing for positive material identification
  • Point-and-shoot sorting at scrap recycling operations
  • Coating thickness measurements from single element layers

How The Niton XL2 Plus Works

How is ferrous scrap metal processed?

Almost all metal-based goods can be recycled, such as old cars, white goods and consumer goods. Shredders are typically used to process light gauge materials, then sent to separation plants (this is where the Niton XL2 Plus comes in) to detect for ferrous metals and non-ferrous metals. Heavier grades of material are reduced with large industrial shears and by manual oxy cutting. After being melted in electric arc or blast furnaces, the ferrous scrap metal is cooled, shaped and made into products.

Automotive shredder residue (ASR) or floc, which is frequently disposed of as waste during the shredding process, is a common source of waste. Some facilities can convert ASR into its core elements of hydrogen for use in transportation fuel and carbon dioxide. This material would save approximately one million tonnes from landfills.

The advantages of scrap metal recycling

Energy Savings

Recycling scrap metal at sites also has an impressive energy efficiency benefit. Steel can be recycled at 75% lower energy costs than using raw materials to produce the metal, and aluminum can be recycled at 95% lower energy costs. Thus, less electricity is wasted, less carbon dioxide is produced, and overall the carbon footprint is reduced. 

Financial Gains 

Recycling metal waste is not only environmentally friendly, but also financially profitable as well. Copper is one of the most desired and valuable metals. Furthermore, brass attracts a high return because of its weight and durability. Steel is still worth recycling, even though it has a lower monetary value. And aluminum still remains one of the most recyclable materials on Earth – over 80% of it can be recycled.

  • Metal is 100% recyclable; it is permanent and can be recycled over and over again
  • Recycling 1 tonne of steel can save 1.5 tonnes of iron ore from being mined and saves natural habitats and forests
  • Recycling metal avoids sending a permanent material to landfill

Speak to PAS today for expert guidance on how the Thermo Fisher Niton XL2 Plus best suits your industry application and particular conditions.

Related Links

The Sorting Process Made Easy

Australian Council Of Recycling

National Waste Recycling Industry Association (NWRIC)

Australian Metal Recycling Industry Association Victoria

Waste Contractors & Recyclers Association of NSW (WCRA)

NSW Police Force: Scrap Metal Industry 

Scrap Metal Industry Public Register

NSW Legislation: Scrap Metal Industry Act

ABLIS: Registration of a Scrap Metal Dealer – New South Wales

EPA: Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy

NSW Fair Trading: Scrap metal exemption certificate

NSW Parliament: Scrap Metal Industry Bill 2016

X