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What to do with scrap metal: from creative reuse to cash in hand

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Scrap metal is one of Australia's largest categories of waste; 17.5% of waste collected on Clean Up Australia Day in 2009 was scrap metal. From appliances to car bodies, heavy metal objects lie rusting everywhere from backyards to national parks. However, this metal doesn't have to go to waste. Scrap metal recycling can put it to productive use. 

Art from scrap

Some scrap metal waste finds an unlikely second life in sculpture or jewellery projects. These can range from the humble to the bizarre, like the giant scrap-metal spiders, robots and other creatures sculpted by teenage Queensland welder Jase Moore. Turning scrap metal into sculpture requires time, a creative eye and some welding experience, but other crafts also make use of scrap metal; figurine manufacturers melt down surplus white metal, and jewellers reuse waste silver and other metals to make wire. The tradition of reusing metal objects creatively has a long history, as can be seen in the "trench art" created by soldiers during the First World War.

Industrial scrap recycling

Most recycled scrap metal, however, goes back to industry. Scrap steel goes into new cars, containers, home furnishings and more. Steel is the metal in highest demand, with aluminum a close second. Other scrap metals such as zinc, copper and brass can also be recycled, although both demand and supply are lower. Almost all modern steel and aluminum products contain some percentage of recycled material, and have for a long time; over a decade ago, Australian industry was already recycling almost as much metal every year as it produced. Much of this recycled metal came from the production process, but post-consumer scrap also played an important role. Demand for scrap metal has had some unfortunate side-effects; theft of metals such as copper has risen since copper prices soared in 2008. 

Recycling your scrap metal

Small quantities of scrap metal, such as aluminum and steel cans -- even spray cans -- can go into your household recycling, although the exact items you can recycle will depend on your local recycling service. If you have a larger amount of scrap, you can sell it to a commercial recycler. Commercial scrap metal recyclers collect scrap from businesses and homes for sale to industry. A scrap metal recycler will pay you for your surplus metal objects. Don't think that you need to have a huge pile of metal sheeting; recyclers will strip the recyclable materials out of cars, white goods, radios and more. Some scrap metal recyclers will even recycle your batteries for you. 

For more information, contact a local scrap metal recycling company.