If you've been looking for iron and steel to recycle, you've probably encountered a few items that have been completely covered in rust. This is common when a metal object is left outside and exposed to the elements for a long period of time.
Metal rusts when the iron in the metal reacts chemically with the oxygen in air and rainwater, forming iron oxide. Iron oxide still contains iron, and it can be extracted during the recycling process when the scrap metal is heated until it turns into molten iron. As a result, you're still able to recycle metal that has rusted, even if the rust is so extensive that it's causing the metal to crumble apart.
If you're planning on taking rusted iron or steel to a metal recycling facility, however, you should take a few precautions in order to make sure you're handling it safely and getting the most money for your scrap metal. Below, you'll find three tips that will help you recycle rusted iron or steel items.
1. Wear Gloves to Prevent Any Cuts or Scratches
Recycling rusted metal is a bit more dangerous than recycling intact metal due to the fact that rusted metal often starts breaking apart. Iron oxide is much weaker than the metal, and it will start to flake off. As the rust flakes away, it can expose very sharp metal edges that may cut you while you're handling the item.
Being cut by rusted metal can be dangerous. You may be familiar with tetanus, which is commonly associated with stepping on rusty nails. It's a disease caused by bacteria that can cause paralysis, and it can be fatal.
Tetanus has nothing to do with rust itself, but it's associated with the conditions that lead to metal items rusting. The spores that develop into the bacteria that cause tetanus are present outdoors, and metal items left outdoors are the ones that tend to rust badly. In order to protect yourself from tetanus and other pathogens that might be present on the item you're recycling, it's important to wear gloves and be careful while you're handling it.
2. Handle Rusted Metal Carefully to Avoid Removing the Iron Oxide
Another reason you should handle rusted metal with care is that you'll reduce the scrap value of the metal if you remove the rust. Rust flakes off easily when you touch it, and any rust you lose while transporting the item to the metal recycling facility will make the item weigh less. You'll maximize the scrap value of rusted metal by carefully placing them in a container to collect any rust that flakes off. Even though rust no longer looks like metal, it still contains useful iron that can be recycled.
3. Separate Non-Rusted Components From the Rest of Your Scrap
Finally, you should also make sure to carefully examine any rusted metal items you're recycling in order to find any non-rusted metal in them. While separating your metals is important whenever you're recycling in order to maximize the amount of money you get from them, it's much easier with rusted-out items.
Metals like copper and aluminum don't rust, since there's no iron in them that can react with oxygen. You'll be able to spot them easily when compared to the rusted iron and steel. Cutting off these metals using a saw or file and separating them from other metals before you head to the metal recycling center will make sure you're getting the most for your scrap.
Overall, the key to recycling rusted metal successfully is to handle it with care. Broken-down cars, old appliances, and furniture that's been left outside can be excellent sources of scrap metal, even when they're badly rusted. Metal recycling facilities can still make use of rusted-out metal by extracting the iron inside the rust, so don't be afraid to scrap them.
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