A fit for purpose DRS? The metal recycling industry has been paying the public for years. 

A fit for purpose DRS? The metal recycling industry has been paying the public for years. 

THE UK’s two deposit return schemes could end up increasing the demand for plastic. 

The warning, issued by British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) for Global Recycling Day, comes as England and Wales are still working to decide how an all-in scheme would operate. 

Amid much disquiet, Scotland is due to launch its scheme in August 2023 for vessels of 50ml to three litres, made from PET, aluminium, and glass. 

A key issue in the proposals is that no matter the size of the container, the deposit is 20p. 

Research carried out by Alupro, the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation, found that of 2,000 people surveyed, two thirds of those buying cans in multipacks said they would be more likely to switch to the plastic bottles when faced with paying an upfront deposit of £4.80 on top of the purchase price of a 24-can multipack compared with a deposit of 80p for four large plastic bottles containing the same amount of liquid. This could lead to some 823 million extra plastic bottles being produced, Alupro says. 

Antonia Grey, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the BMRA said: “The deposit returns schemes are inherently a good thing to encourage further recycling thereby reducing our reliance on primary materials. However, aluminium cans already have a convenient kerbside home collection and with recycling rates as high as they are, it would be interesting to see what the impact would be. For example, in 2021, Alupro reported that four in five (82%) beverage cans were recycled, making this the most recycled beverage packaging type in the UK.

Ms Grey added: “Recycling aluminium cans in the UK is an efficient closed loop system. We agree with concerns presented by other Associations and industries, that it could add additional pollution to a system already working. In addition, given the cost-of-living crisis, would people pay more for their cans of drink versus a bigger bottle?”

BMRA suggests one way to avoid this could be to introduce a variable-rate DRS. This model is already proving successful in Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden. Under the so-called Nordic Model, a varying deposit is levied on drinks containers based on their size and material, rather than a single flat rate. They have all seen their recycling rates increase since implementing their DRS; for example, Denmark has achieved a bottle and can recycling rate of 90 percent.

The current furore around the Scottish DRS also offers a timely reminder that metal recyclers have been paying for metal for years. With that in mind, the BMRA has produced an A-Z of metal recycling which informs the public about metals’ limitless potential and versatility. 

Metal recycling A to Z

Aluminium – Recycling aluminium uses 95% less energy than producing aluminium from mined bauxite. Recycling one tonne saves 14,000 kWh of energy – enough to meet the energy needs of an average UK home. 

Batteries – When tampered with, destroyed or in any way pierced or broken, a lithium/lithium-ion battery can explode, cause a fire, even electrocution. They pose a huge risk to people and places, which is why it is important they are not put in general waste, kerbside recycling boxes or bins or scrap loads. They can be recycled, but separately.

Copper – 60% of copper produced since the 1900s is still in use today.It is a non-ferrous metal and is not magnetic. Copper is used in households to conduct electricity as well as in plumbing applications due to it being highly non-corrosive and non-toxic. 

Design – Innovative product design for metal recycling machinery such as balers, shredders and separation equipment means that preparing, processing as well as extracting metal from other materials for recycling is becoming more and more efficient, meaning even more metal being recycled. 

Elements– 75% of all the known chemical elements are categorised as metals. Because it comes from the earth, it is critical metal is recycled to protect and sustain natural habitats.

Forever – Metal is 100% recyclable, it is permanent, and it can be recycled forever, over and over again. It contributes to the circular economy, avoiding sending a permanent material to landfill. 

Gold – Gold is a noble metal. It is relatively unreactive and resists degradation by air, moisture, or acidic conditions. Did you know, one tonne of mobile phones contains as much gold as 70 tonnes of gold ore. 

Hot cutting – The use of extreme heat for procedures like hot-cutting helps to process metal so that it is ready for a foundry to be melted down and made into something for its next life.

Iron – Iron is what is known as a ferrous metal. It is strong, durable, and used to make steel – an alloy of iron and carbon. It is easy to separate it from other metals because it is magnetic. 

Journey -As the UK produces considerably more scrap than is required for domestic markets, 80 percent is exported worldwide. In fact, the UK is one of the five largest metal scrap exporting countries in the world and is a key contributor to the UK economy.

Kilotonne – Metal recyclers process over 11,000 kilotonnes of ferrous and non-ferrous metal annually. Metals recycling is a pyramid industry which includes many small, family-owned companies, as well as large, international businesses. Activities include collecting, sorting, shearing, baling, shredding, media separation, as well as re-use, casting, and fabrication. A wide range of products are recycled, such as end-of-life vehicles, packaging, batteries, domestic appliances, building materials and electronic goods.

Limitless potential – Because it can be recycled time and time again, metal has limitless potential. Window frames could become a plane. A bridge could become a bicycle. Your brass door handle could become a trumpet. And then, they could all become something else!

Materials – Raw materials from recycling, such as metal, emits 80% less CO2 than metal produced from virgin ore mined to make brand new metals.

Nickel – 57% of all mined nickel is still in use and global nickel-related CO emissions are reduced by one third thanks to nickel recycling.

Olympic medals. Did you know that Japan’s 2020 Olympic medals were made from metal from recycled mobile phones, digital cameras, handheld games and laptops. The 5,000 medals used 30.3kg of gold, 4,100kg of silver and 2,700kg of bronze.

Production – using a blast furnace for steel production typically uses 15%-25% steel scrap with the rest made up of mined product. An Electric Arc Furnace can use up to 100% scrap metal to produce new steel. 

Quality – Most metals can be recycled time and time again without any loss of quality, meaning that recycling metal is a long-term sustainable alternative to mining. 

Rhodium – Rhodium is one of the metals found in a catalytic converter. While only a few grams are needed, it is key to helping a car reduce its emissions. When recycled correctly it can go back into a new catalytic converter to help reduce more car emissions.

Steelmaking – Every tonne of recycled steel saves:

  • 1.5 tonnes of iron ore
  • 0.5 tonnes of coal
  • 70% of the energy
  • 40% of the water
  • 75% of CO2 emissions
  • 0.97 tonnes of CO2

Tin cans – Steel cans are made from tin-coated steel, which is where they get the name tin cans from. They are one of the metal items that you can put in a kerbside recycling collection. Lots of different foods are now canned and it is great way to keep food preserved, sometimes for years. Recycling one tonne of tin saves 99% of the energy required for the primary production of tin.

Uses – Metal is plentiful and found everywhere. Metal is used in many everyday applications – to protect the food you eat, to build the bridge you walk over, the bike you ride, the mobile phone you use. Let’s make sure we get as much back into the circular economy by making sure we put the right material in the correct waste stream. 

Value – Scrap metal has a value.You can be paid for it by a licenced dealer. Depending on the set-up it can be via BACS, cheque or etransfer. Watch out, paying cash for scrap is illegal and if you are offered it you need to report it.

WEEE – Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (known as WEEE) generally covers products that have a plug or need a battery, such as fridges, vacuum cleaners, and computer equipment. Although some WEEE can be made mostly of plastic, it often also contains metal and has its own recycling stream. 

X-ray fluorescence (XRF) a key tool for the metal recycler to enable them to identify different alloys and metals. The ability to sort metals and alloys into different grades ensures that the correct grades are recycled together into new metals.  

Yards – Metal can either be taken to a specialist metal recycler, collected from your house, or taken to a council-run Household Waste and Recycling Centre (HWRC). Scrap metal recycling is a heavily regulated industry, so make sure the company or person you use has the appropriate licences in place, including a Scrap Metal Dealers Licence and a Waste Carriers Licence. 

Zero –Metal recycling, like all economic sectors in the UK is looking to decarbonise to meet the UK Governments 2050 net zero target. Already key to reducing emissions through the recycling of metal, the industry is also investigating yet more ways it can decarbonise its operations. 

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