metal waste collection
Ways to Reduce Metal Waste

How to Reduce Metal Waste

Scrap metal is an inevitable byproduct of many manufacturing processes. Most scrap metal is recyclable and reusable but reducing metal waste in factories and businesses saves time, money, and energy. It’s not just manufacturing firms that produce and need to reduce metal waste – it’s also a popular packaging material.

Shops, restaurants, and cafes throw away millions of aluminium drinks and aerosol cans, steel food and paint tins, trays, and more. In the UK, households also produce 756,000 tonnes of metal packaging waste every year. Domestic metal packaging waste is the most recycled material from households in the UK with a recycling rate of 76%.

Metal waste is highly recyclable but reducing waste levels saves resources and energy that has a positive environmental impact. Discover how to reduce metal waste in your business and home with these expert tips.

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Why is reducing metal 
waste important?

Reducing metal waste is important because metal is a finite resource and a non-renewable material. Once all the metal in the world has been mined and used there’ll be no more available. Most metal is infinitely recyclable and can be melted down and formed into new products to prolong its life though.

However, recycling metal requires lots of energy, labour, resources, and transportation. This can be expensive and have a significant environmental impact due to the energy and fuel used in the recycling process. Reducing metal usage and waste cuts back on this and ensures more metal is available for other uses.

Recycling metals is still the best disposal method when you do produce waste. For example, recycling drink cans uses 95% less energy than required to make new aluminium or steel cans from raw materials. Waste metal should never go to landfill as it can release toxins into the air, ground, and nearby water.

Reducing waste metal minimises the risk of it ending up in landfill or being disposed of improperly. Metal also can’t be incinerated as the material doesn’t burn, so recycling, reusing, and reducing waste are the main options.

piles of scrap metal in a yard.

How to reduce scrap metal 
in your business

Businesses across most industries use metal materials and create waste in all sorts of ways. Reducing scrap is important whether your organisation manufactures metal products, uses metal items, or creates metal waste from other activities. It could be anything from a garage repairing cars to a small shop selling drinks cans.

Ways to reduce scrap metal production in your business include to:

  • Order the right quantity – using the best quantities and sizes of metal materials can limit how much waste you create. Careful planning should mean you don’t have to rely on buying the largest sizes available to account for errors.
  • Use appropriate equipment – it’s important that you use the proper equipment to cut or weld metal that’s worked with, otherwise it could ruin the material and break the tools being used. This creates excess metal waste and increases costs to repair or replace the equipment.
  • Automate manufacturing processes – human error can create metal waste, whether it’s inaccurate measuring, using the wrong tools, or carelessness. Automating metal manufacturing processes with the latest software and machinery can cut down on mistakes and metal waste.
  • Measure before cutting – for any manual work always triple measure and check before cutting metal. If you’re off even a small amount it could mean the whole piece of metal is useless and becomes waste.
  • Apply for metal recycling rebates – if your organisation produces scrap metal despite trying to limit its waste, a good option is to look for metal recycling rebates. Various places will buy scrap metal from your business to recycle and reuse. While this doesn’t prevent creating waste it does put it to good use and avoid it going to landfill.
  • Use metal recycling bins – many businesses that don’t work directly with metal still create metal waste. This often includes packaging such as aluminium drink cans, steel tins, and foil trays. Place metal recycling bins close to the point of production to ensure as much of this is recycled.
Metal recycling facts

How to reduce metal 
waste at home

Households produce metal waste in various forms, from empty drink cans to throwing away old electronic equipment and wires containing metal. Packaging materials are the main type of waste metal most homes create. While most types are recyclable, reducing waste is still best for the environment and to preserve metal materials where possible.

To reduce how much metal waste you create at home:

  • Reuse aluminium trays – many oven-baked foods come in metal trays you can reuse. After cooking wash them, leave them to dry, and then reuse them for future meals. They’re ideal for making a lasagna, baking a cake, or just as storage for cold foods in your fridge.
  • Donate old pots and pans – some of the main metal products in our homes are in the kitchen. Most pots and pans last for many years but when you’re moving or getting rid of some old ones consider donating them to a charity shop, to friends and family, or offering them online rather than recycling them.
  • Avoid metal packaging – an easy way to reduce creating metal waste is to limit your use of it in the first place. Buying food items with no, low, or biodegradable packaging rather than aluminium or foil can help. Visit refill stores or buy in bulk where possible.
  • Get creative – all sorts of metallic packaging can be great for crafts. Give it a clean and then you can use colourful foil sweet wrappers to decorate greeting cards, or crush drink cans and artistically frame them safely.
  • Recycle drinks cans and food tins – for most aluminium, tin, or steel cans and tins ensure they’re clean and dry then you can normally recycle them in your household recycling bin. If you’ve got high volumes or large pieces of scrap metal take them to your local household waste recycling centre (HWRC).
crushed metal food tins.

Read more waste reduction guides

Explore more of our expert guides to find out how to reduce waste in your business or household.

How to reduce waste
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