Recycling metal, including aluminum, copper, lead, zinc, nickel, and tin, as well as precious metals such as gold, silver, and platinum, saves natural resources, reduces energy costs, and strengthens the economy. These metals, excluding iron and steel, are known as nonferrous metals.
Aluminum is the most widely used nonferrous metal in the United States. Sources of recycled aluminum include used beverage containers, automobiles, airplanes, house siding, and wires and cables.
Copper has been in use for more than 10,000 years, partly because it combines well with other metals to form alloys. Bronze and brass are two of the most common copper alloys. Sources of recycled copper include electrical wires, construction material, and consumer goods.
Metals do not degrade or lose their chemical properties in the recycling process, which allows them to be recycled an infinite number of times.
U.S. recyclers recover between 85 percent to 95 percent of all aluminum in U.S. automobiles.
More than 60 percent of the aluminum consumed by U.S. mills comes from recycled material.
Manufacturing products from recycled aluminum saves up to 95 percent of the energy needed to manufacture them from virgin materials.
Recycled nonferrous metals only account for around 10 percent of the volume of all recyclables in the United States but generate about half of the value in dollar terms due to their high per unit prices.
In 2019, the United States exported $10.6 billion worth of recycled copper, aluminum, brass, and other nonferrous metals (including precious metals) to more than 95 countries for use in manufacturing.
- About 75% of aluminum produced since commercial manufacturing began in the 1880s is still in productive use as a secondary raw material.
- It takes as little as 60 days for an aluminum beverage can to go from the recycling bin back to a grocery shelf.
- The United States recycles enough copper each year to equal the copper content of more than 30,000 Statues of Liberty.