In the United States over 15 million tons of metals are discarded every year. This represents almost 9% of MSW by weight. We recycle 14% of our metallic wastes (nearly 64% of aluminum). During the last fifty years, more than half of the raw materials used in steel mills was recycled. At least one-third of the aluminum produced is from recycled sources.
Aluminum recycling is profitable and well established because it requires only 5% of the electric power to remelt aluminum as it does to extract it from bauxite ore. In 1990 the average price paid for crushed, baled aluminum cans was $1,050 per ton and some 55 billion aluminum cans (0.96 million tons) have been recycled. The recycling rate of aluminum increased from 61% in 1989 to 63.5% in 1990. Steel has also been recycled for generations, but the recycling of steel cans is relatively new. It was necessary to reduce the rust-preventing tin layer on the steel cans first, so that they might be added directly to steel furnaces. The recycling of steel cans has increased from 5 billion cans in 1988 to 9 billion in 1990 and its market value varied from $40 to $70 per ton in 1990 depending on location.
The main sources of scrap metals are cans, automobiles, kitchen appliances (white goods), structural steel, and farm equipment. The value of the noncombustibles in incinerator ash varies from area to area.
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