In prior years, the only metal scrap that was recyclable was the old stalwarts of the scrap business. These items were solid pieces of metal that were segregated into their various grades by eye. Trained sorters differentiated their metals by a variety of Alchemic methods including taking a grinding wheel to stainless/ nickel alloys and trying to read the color of the spark to determine if there was molybdenum or high nickel in the alloy to dousing copper alloys with different acids to elicit different shades of green to determine tin or nickel contents.
Oh my, how times have changed.
Today the savvy scrap dealer is loaded with high tech devices that emit a burst of isotopes at the metal surface and calculates the speed of these protons bouncing back to give a rather accurate analysis of the alloying agents contained within the metals. These analyzers have revolutionized how scrap powders and sludges are analyzed. Although this method is not 100% accurate, it gives the scrap man and the client a good idea if these products have any value.
The melting of these metals has changes as well. In the “old days”, the nickel bearing items were put into a furnace with other similar metals, the furnace was fired up and whatever came out was “divvied” up amongst the various companies that sent in the original components to the melt mix. This method prevented the powders from being recycled properly because they caught fire in the furnace when the mix got to its melting point. Added to that were the exorbitant fees for the processing of these materials: testing fees, laboratory fees, disposal fees as well as the infamous LOI or loss on ignition.
Today, very few recyclers such as Globe Metal are using cutting edge techniquesthat allow low grade materials to be recycled while maximizing the metallic content recovered. Hydrometallurgical processes as well as newer furnace technologies that allow these precious resources to be recovered and reused as opposed to being lost up giant smokestacks or even worse, sent to landfills for disposal. These low grade materials provide a valuable feedstock to the various industries of the world, displacing the volumes that need to be taken out ofthe Earth through destructive mining processes.