Scrapping and recycling is a vital and important part of the lifecycle of metals used in a variety of construction and manufacturing fields. Metal in old vehicles, buildings, or other items that have outlived their usefulness can be recycled and given new life elsewhere. 

Not only does this help the environment by reducing the need to extract and refine new material, but it is also economically advantageous for all parties involved. Scrap metal sellers can earn money for material that no longer serves any purpose while the purchasers of recycled metal often get what they need at a substantial discount. 

Of course, there are many steps between delivering metal to a scrapyard and recycled metal arriving at a job site or factory. What happens in between – and how much of the scrap metal can actually be recycled – depends largely on the type of metal in question. 

1. Aluminum: Infinitely Recyclable 

Aluminum delivered to a scrap yard will be fully recycled with no loss of quality to the metal. This process can be accomplished at a much lower temperature than extracting aluminum from ore, resulting in an exceptionally efficient recycling process. 

Once melted down, the aluminum can later be milled to produce new sheets with no loss of strength or flexibility. Aluminum scrap is highly valuable in part because the recycled material is no less valuable (and is, in fact, indistinguishable from) newly extracted metal. 

2. Copper: A Sea of Alloys

Copper, like aluminum, can be recycled in an indefinite number of times without degrading the metal. Because of this quality, copper is another metal that is highly valued by scrappers since the recycled material is no less useful than "new" metal. As with aluminum, copper scrap is shredded, melted down, and ultimately formed into ingots. This process, along with additional purification steps, ensures that 100% of the copper that you scrap will eventually find its way into new products. 

Alloys of copper, such as brass or bronze, are also valuable as scrap and can be recycled and reused indefinitely. In most cases, the alloy is simply melted down and reformed, but in some cases, alloys such as bronze will undergo a process to separate out of the copper. This allows the copper to be recovered separately. 

3. Ferrous Metals: Magnetic Appeal

Ferrous metals such as steel or cast iron are melted down and recycled in a similar manner to aluminum and copper. Since ferrous metals are magnetic, they are also relatively easy to sort from other types of metal. 

Of course, this also makes ferrous metals useful in the creation of electronic motors and turbines, which helps to bolster the value of ferrous metal. Unfortunately, ferrous metal is the most recycled material in the world and its relatively common status means that it isn't worth nearly as much as other types of scrap.