Metal cans recycling

Biffa's guide to metal recycling

8 Apr 2019
5 mins

In the UK 580 million aerosols, 16,000 tonnes of foil trays and almost 13 billion steel cans are used each year. Good news though, all of these items are made from metal and are 100%, endlessly recyclable.

How much metal is recycled in the UK?

According to the British Metals Recycling Association, 10 million tonnes of metal was recycled in the UK in 2018. Britain recycles more metal than the industry currently demand resulting in 90% of recycled metal being exported abroad. This makes the UK one of the five largest recycled metal exporter in the world. Lead is the most recycled metal with over 70% of lead used made from a recycled source, saving 60% of energy compared to making lead from ore.

Which metals Biffa collects for recycling

Metal is used in a variety of industries from consumer product packaging such as food and drinks cans to pipes, wiring and support beams in the construction sector. Almost all metals can be recycled into high quality new metal, which is why it’s important to consult with your waste management operator to ensure any metal waste is recycled effectively.

As part of our business recycling services, Biffa will collect:

* Copper
* Aluminium
* Steel
* Brass
* Zinc
* Tin
* Lead

Biffa can collect bulk scrap metal through our construction and our utility waste sector services. We can also collect smaller volumes of metal through our OneCall services, ideal for one off collections and electrical items which can’t be placed in a skip container.

Are any metals considered hazardous to recycle?

Though metal isn't hazardous waste some of the items it's made into are. Aerosols and WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) are considered hazardous waste due to the other components the metal is made with. Aerosols that are collected in bulk from commercial recycling services are considered hazardous waste. They will need to be sent to Biffa’s hazardous waste facility, which can process and recycle 100% of aerosol containers safely and ecologically. Every year Biffa recycles over 10 million aerosols from businesses and captures over 33 tonnes of aerosol propellant gases. Aerosols and other hazardous waste can can all be collected straight from your workplace with our hazardous waste collection service.

Find out more about Aerosol recycling.

Is metal recycling environmentally friendly?

Using recycled metal uses far less energy than making new metals from ore. Aluminium cans use just five per cent of the energy needed to produce them from scratch during the recycling process; as well as releasing only five per cent of the amount of greenhouse gases.

Did you know a single recycled aluminium can save enough energy to power a 100-watt bulb for up to four hours?

An estimated 80% of all copper ever mined from the earth is still being used today, largely in the construction industry. Using scrap copper also reduces global CO2 emissions by approximately 65% and holds around 95% of its value compared to the original primary metal, making metal recycling an economically and environmentally sound choice.
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Author: Biffa

This article was written by one of Biffa's own experts and content writers.