The recycling of metal powder is possible and valuable in terms of saving costs or generating revenue for companies and contributing to a sustainable environment and society through
conserving energy and resources and decreasing pollutants.
By Brendon Chrus
We speak to companies every day about their metal powders and encounter some common themes and objections. There is a lot of misinformation about the ability to recycle metal powders. This belief is reinforced by speaking with local scrap dealers that would much rather focus on recycling old bikes and refrigerators than training their staff and investigating outlets for these types of materials. Metal powder and metal dust are very common by-product in metal processing industries, and safe and clear handling of such metal waste is possible. Leading companies and third-party regulators can validate safe handling on a daily basis.
There is a lot of misinformation across a variety of manufacturers and industries on the inability to recycle metal powders. The three main common misconceptions about metal powders are:
- A good amount of metal powders produced have to be landfilled
- All metal powders are hazardous
- There is no value in recycling metal powders with small volumes of material
There is a real mindset out in the marketplace that metal powders do not have a lot of value. However, we have been able to identify absolutely enormous volumes of material that are not being put back into the circular economy.
There is a really big emphasis in society today and in popular media to recycle plastics, cans, paper, etc. For a lot of people, the environmental benefits of recycling metals and metal powders are not well understood. Particularly with metal powder and dust, there is a widespread expectation that they are always flammable and dangerous to recycle. Indeed, many of these powders do have danger to them, but there are ways to safely handle and recycle them. Many people are not aware that metals can be repeatedly recycled without degradation of their properties compared to other recycled materials, and recycling metals can significantly save energy and resources and reduce pollutions. With the following stats, this does not even take into account the impacts on the natural landscape, water usage or the human impact of some of these locations where this mining is taking place:
• Metal recycling reduces greenhouse emissions by requiring significantly less energy to manufacture products from recyclables than virgin materials and by avoiding landfilling
• Energy saved using recycled materials is up to 95 percent for aluminum, 75 percent for copper and 60 percent for steel
• Scrap metal recycling conserves natural resources
• Recycling one ton of steel conserves 2,500 lbs. of iron ore, 1,400 lbs. of coal, 120 lbs. of limestone and 2 tons of CO2 emissions
• Aluminum conserves more than 4 metric tons a bauxite ore
• Cleaner air and water results from safely removing hazardous materials and keeping them out of landfills
When recycling and shipping the metal material, one would need to know the approximate weights of the material, the type of material and if the material is being mixed with other materials or segregated. Photos of the material and packaging, along with the standard data sheet (SDS) and a packing slip are needed in shipping.
Metal Recycling Case Studies
The following is set of case studies to present how some of these common misconceptions have been approached, the problems that Globe Metal has solved and the results that companies are getting when working with Globe Metal Recycling.
#1: An Environmental Company
The client was an environmental company in the northeast that serviced an Aerospace Company using metal powders as both a coating and in injection molding. Globe Metal Recycling effectively partnered in trying to find a better alternative to incinerating their metal powders, which they had been doing for the last decade. They had a full warehouse of cobalt, nickel, aluminum and molybdenum powders. They approached us skeptical that we would be able to do anything with the material.
Approach: This was a bit of special situation in that normally we need to test the material for various metals that might be present. In this case, most of the material was new in its original packaging and with the SDS and, in a few cases, the certificate of analysis. Within a few days we provided a price per pound of material and organized freight.
Results: It ended up being three truckloads of material over the course of a few weeks and we paid them over a $200,000. The company was very surprised at how easy it was recycled, and the value paid for it at the same time.
# 2: An Additive Manufacturing Company
An additive manufacturing company for medical equipment produces low volumes of stainless steel and aluminum powders that had very expensive landfill costs. The materials going into the products were valuable, but the secondary metal material produced was not.
Approach: The company repackaged the material into the original containers and added hazmat labels according to the shipping requirements. Globe Metal Recycling organized hazmat freight service from the supplier’s location. The company was paid on the recovery on each different grade of material (Inconel 625, Hastelloy-C, titanium 6-4 and Aluminum powders). The supplier covered the transportation costs due to the low volume of material-3 skids.
Results: Net benefits were enormous. They received a certificate of recycling, material was being handled safely and validated by third party regulators, and with recycling they avoided the disposal costs. A year and a half later, we have done half a dozen shipments and the volumes have grown substantially.
Depending on the form and composition of the material, these metals can go into the manufacturing of super alloy materials, be used in the production of stainless steel or in the case of aluminum metal powder as a fuel source in different models of furnaces. The sources and applications of metal waste are seemingly endless.
A Better Solution
The recycling of metal powder is possible and valuable in terms of saving costs or generating revenue for companies and contributing to a sustainable environment and society through conserving energy and resources and decreasing pollutions. Stop landfilling your metal powder waste and look for better solutions. | WA
Brendon Chrus is an Account Manager and experienced metal recycler at Globe Metal Recycling (Santa Ana, CA). Brendon specializes in handling metal waste streams from environmental service providers, metal powder recycling from the additive manufacturing industry, high temperate alloys recycling from the aerospace industry and metal catalyst recycling. He can be reached at (514) 430-0081 or e-mail Brendon@globemetal.com.
Globe Metal Recycling started in 1975 trading non-ferrous and ferrous metals. In 2000, Globe Metal started trading in high temperature alloys. In 2010, they began to recycle powders and sludges. Besides servicing companies from the aerospace and additive manufacturing (3D printing) industries, Globe Metal also handles metal powder waste from many other metal-processing companies. The company has dealt in hundreds of different chemistries of metal powder and have dealt with every major filter system. The company shipped material from as far as India and Kazakhstan, and from every small town in North America. Not only does Globe Metal Recycling help companies recycle their metals, but they also work on the environmental space by keeping perfectly recyclable metals out of landfills. Globe Metal Recycling is a customer driven problem-solving company with a commitment to the environment, closing the loop on sustainability. For more information, visit www.globemetal.com.
• International Aluminum Institute
• U.S. EPA