Large-scale recycling of municipal waste, scrap metal, and demolition and construction waste is a fairly recent phenomenon linked to the increase of wealth and urbanization. The first steps of organized solid waste management were taken in London in the late 18th century and then further enhanced with the introduction of waste collection regulations and incineration plants in the mid-19th century. A turning point for metal recycling was World War II, when there was a huge shortage of materials for warfare.
As the use of primary resources increases with wealth and urbanization, the concern for the sensible use and reuse of material grows. According to the UN, around 55 percent of the world’s population now lives in urban areas. The figure is growing quickly – and with it the amount of different types of waste. Recycling and a circular economy way of thinking are more important than ever. Today, we are seeing a rapid increase in the recycling of municipal waste, metals and plastics as well as construction and demolition materials. More and more process waste, by-products and emissions are considered as potential secondary raw materials.
Municipal waste is rich raw material
Municipal solid waste contains various valuable materials that can be sorted and sold or made use of, for example in energy production. Different components, like metals, plastics, glass, packaging fiber, organic materials, and paper, are mixed in waste and require processing and sorting before they can be fully utilized. The quicker and more efficient the processing phase is, the more valuable the municipal solid waste is as a raw material.
To process municipal waste profitably, the waste treatment equipment must handle many materials of different shapes and sizes. Rocks, stones, plastic bags, and other resistant components should not jam the production, and – despite variety in the material – the end product must be homogenous and optimally sized for further processing.
Increase in scrap metal types
In metal recycling, the variation of scrap material is increasing. In practice, this means that the relative share of traditional steel is decreasing and new materials, like plastics and aluminum, are on the rise. Scrap yards need to be capable of processing various kinds of feed material efficiently. Also, extracting valuable materials from shredder residue and recovering non-ferrous metals and plastics is extremely important in running a profitable scrap business.
Recycling of construction and demolition material makes a difference
Construction and demolition (C&D) waste is also an endless source of raw materials for various purposes. Building something new often means that something old is being dismantled, especially in the construction business. Roads, buildings and bridges do not last forever, and they are under constant repair.
Due to continuous renovations, massive amounts of construction and demolition waste are generated around the world; a large part of this waste is not yet utilized efficiently, but instead dumped in landfills. C&D waste, however, comprises multiple economically valuable materials – such as concrete, bricks, wood and metals – that can be used in the manufacturing of new products, construction materials, roads, or in energy production.
Today, some 30-40% of new metal is produced from recycled materials. The world’s most recycled material is steel. Piled up, the annual amount of recycled steel would weigh more than a hundred Great Pyramids of Giza.
Using waste saves energy
In addition to helping save natural resources and getting more value of them by reusing the materials, the recycling of metal and waste uses much less energy than producing something for the first time.
For example, producing steel from recycled steel scrap saves more than 60% in energy costs. The recycling of aluminum uses 95% less energy than the primary production process. Recycling your soft drink cans is definitely worthwhile!
Recycling needs everyone’s commitment – and knowledge
We all have an important role in making recycling and a circular economy work. As ordinary citizens, we can make sure that we properly sort the waste we produce. Processing the waste into new materials and energy in a sustainable manner requires special knowledge and new innovations.
Aspects of a circular economy have been embedded in Metso’s offering for a long time in the form of market-leading waste and metal recycling equipment as well as asphalt, construction and demolition waste crushing technology. Metso has been providing equipment and services for the recycling business for over a century. One of our three renowned recycling heritage brands, Lindemann, introduced its first hydraulic scrap press back in 1923. Texas Shredder, Metso’s other metal recycling brand, originates from the U.S. and is one of the leading metal recycling brands in the American market area. M&J-branded waste shredding equipment was introduced in the late 1980s. These all became part of Metso through acquisitions in 2001, 2005 and 2010, respectively.
Today, we have one of the industry’s most advanced ranges of solutions for the recycling of metals, as well as for processing solid waste and by-products. For example, our shredders and auxiliary equipment are used in scrap yards, electronic waste recycling plants and facilities pre-processing waste for use in the production of alternative fuels. The mobile Metso Lokotrack® UrbanTM crushing unit, on the other hand, is well suited for asphalt, construction and demolition waste crushing, helping our customers to recycle directly at the removal site.
New technologies and innovations are key for taking recycling forward. We are committed to continuing to improve the process- and energy-efficiency of our existing products to enable efficient processing of both primary and secondary raw materials. In a world where sustainability is ever more important, being a vital part of a circular economy is a great privilege and passion for us.
Director, Global Communications