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Environmental Benefits of Commercial Recycling for Metal

Why Recycle?

A wide range of metals including aluminium, copper, steel and iron can be recycled. Making products from recycled metals uses less energy, reduces carbon emissions, and uses less water compared with using raw materials. Commercial recyclers and scrap metal yards will buy scrap metal at the market price, making this a valuable resource to recycle. Metals such as lead and mercury are classified as hazardous materials and must be disposed of through approved facilities. If placed in landfill, heavy metals can leach and contaminate the soil and water system.

Victoria recycles around 1 million tonnes of commercial metal per year1. That's the equivalent "everyday" greenhouse gas savings of driving a car over 8 billion km or driving around the equator 214 thousand times.

Environmental Benefits

"Everyday" and unit savings per tonne of metal2 recycled:

Greenhouse
greenhouse
8,016 km driven3
1.66 tonnes CO2e
Energy
Energy
11 houses' energy for a month4
20 GJ LHV (5,588 kWh)
Water
Water
55 bath tubs5
9.73 kL water
Waste
Waste
37 wheelie bins6
2.04 tonnes

For an explanation of key terms used, please visit our Glossary.

More Info & Sources

1. Hyder Consulting (2009) Waste and Recycling in Australia (Amended report), Hyder Consulting Pty Ltd, Melbourne
2. Data for all metal types (Commercial & Industrial and Construction & Demolition recycling only) contained in Table 4 (p.14) Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW (2010) Environmental Benefits of Recycling, DECCW, Sydney South
3. “Everyday” greenhouse gas emission savings expressed as number of kilometers driven by an average new passenger and light commercial vehicle (206.6g CO2e / km). National Transport Commission (2012) Carbon Dioxide Emissions from New Australian Vehicles 2011 Information Paper
4. “Everyday” cumulative energy demand savings expressed as average household monthly electricity requirements (500 kWh). 1GJ LHV = 278kWh (GJ LHV = Giga-joules of fossil energy (low heating value); kWh = Kilowatt hour)
5. “Everyday” water savings corresponding to average sized bath tubs (0.175 kL capacity)
6. “Everyday” solid waste savings represented by number of average sized wheelie bins (55kg capacity)

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