Recycled scrap metal is as good as new

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 November, 2010, 12:00am

I have a friend who works in a 'dirty' business, but it's also one of the most environmentally friendly. He works in the scrap metal industry.

When you see a scrap metal yard, the word 'green' is probably the furthest thing from your mind. Rusty, greasy hulks of old cars lie in jumbled piles. There are giant stacks of metal tubes and cables, and massive machines growl and scream as they shred all the metal into tiny chunks.

'The small scrap yards you see that are so dirty and messy are actually an important, early part of this food chain,' Terry says. 'The important role they play has been overlooked for a long time, but people are slowly beginning to recognise their importance.

'Most people don't realise it, but the scrap metal industry is really an environmentally friendly business.'

Terry works for European Metal Recycling, a company which buys scrap metal from around the world.

The scrap metal is then shipped to factories where they melt and clean it and get it ready to be used again. 'If you shred a car, a lot of that steel will end up going back into a new car, and all that copper will go into new pipes and cables. The old cars make the new cars,' Terry says. 'About 96 per cent of a car gets recycled in the end.'

Do you ever wonder what happens to all the old buildings that get knocked down in Hong Kong? The concrete is used as landfill, and all the metal in the building is recycled.

'The business is getting bigger and bigger because people are starting to realise the environmental damage that is done when you dig a big hole in the ground to mine for new metals. Consumers are getting smart and they want to buy products made from recycled materials, so that raises demand for scrap metal,' Terry says.

The next time you dump something into a recycling bin, think of it as the first step in a long process. The aluminium can or broken household item isn't junk - it will be transformed into something new. And soon you'll see it back on the store shelves.