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How is Iron Recyclable – Updated Information

During the Industrial Revolution, iron was used in various ways from cast iron cookware to railroad tracks aswell as the building blocks for buildings that shape the cities we know today like New York.

Today we are talking about the smaller iron items and how to go about their recyclability. Back in the day many may remember that these products came with instructions on how to dispose of them properly. These days, many people have become more conscious of how their actions affect their environment.

We’ve all been told that recycling is essential, but we sometimes must figure out what to recycle. Is Iron recyclable? Which iron can we recycle? This article aims to solve your recycling dilemmas by clearly defining how to recycle iron. To understand how we can recycle iron, we first need to learn more about iron.

A Brief About Iron Metal

Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. Iron is widely used as a metal, often alloyed with carbon and other elements, to produce tools and machinery. It is also used in buildings, particularly for reinforcing steel. Iron can be found in two different forms:

Wrought iron and cast iron.

  • Cast iron is a type of iron metal with high tensile strength and good ductility at room temperature, making it an ideal material for structural applications. Cast irons contain between 2% and 4% carbon and small amounts of silicon and manganese. These alloys exhibit good machinability but can be formed by casting into complex shapes like gears, shafts, or cylinders—the hard, brittle, and wear-resistant properties. In addition to stoves and car engines, it is utilized in water pipelines and machine tools.
  • Wrought Iron is produced in a blast furnace. The blast furnace’s pig iron is melted into liquid form and poured into molds to form ingots. These ingots are then heated in a crucible until they become a molten liquid which can be poured into molds to create castings (pieces of metal). The castings are then wrought (worked) with hammers on an anvil before they are allowed to cool down completely. Once they have cooled down completely, they are removed from their molds for further processing.

How to Recycle Iron Correctly

Iron recycling involves reclaiming iron from used materials such as scrap metal, old equipment and even discarded appliances. The iron is then melted down and reshaped into new products.

Which iron products can be recyclable?

Iron objects that are recycled frequently come from different household and industrial items:

  • Cars and trucks (e.g. Engine block, Cylinder head, Transmission case, Driveshaft)
  • Appliances (e.g. washing machines, dryers, refrigerators)
  • Steel cans (e.g. food cans, aerosol cans)
  • Construction materials (e.g. rebar, pipes)
  • Tools and equipment (e.g. lawn mowers, power tools)
  • Utensils and cookware
  • Scrap metal from industrial operations
  • Rail tracks
  • Nails and screws
  • Cast iron items like stoves, grill and other.

Iron Metal Recycling Process

Iron recycling is a complicated process that involves multiple steps, each designed to extract as much usable material as possible from scrap iron products. Let’s discuss the recycling process in detail.


The first step in the process is collecting the unwanted scrap metal. This can be done by various methods, including picking it up directly from individuals or businesses, collecting it from drop-off locations, or using self-storage facilities.

In the collection step, raw materials are gathered from different sources. These sources include industrial sites, construction sites, demolition sites, and even residential areas.


After collection, sorting takes place to separate different types of scrap by type and size. The sorting process may also include cleaning if necessary, separating any other materials that might be mixed in with the scrap metal (such as plastic or wood), and removing any unusable parts for recycling purposes (such as paint).

In some cases, a magnetic separator may remove ferrous metals from nonferrous ones before they are shredded into smaller pieces. This prevents contamination by ferrous metals when they are melted down together later in the process.


Shredding machines break down large scrap pieces into smaller pieces so they can be melted down more quickly. This is done using heavy-duty industrial equipment that chops up scrap metal into small pieces.

The size of the pieces depends on what type of scrap metal has been collected and what type of processing it will undergo next. The smaller the pieces are, the easier it is for them to be separated from other materials at a later stage.


Once the scrap has been shredded, it is sent to an electric arc furnace, where it burns at very high temperatures until all that remains are pure iron. Melting involves heating the pieces at high temperatures until they become liquid again so that they can be poured into molds or shaped by other machines.


Purifying involves removing impurities such as dirt, rust, paint and oil from the recycled iron before it can be used for manufacturing purposes. This process also ensures that contaminants do not affect the final product quality produced by manufacturers who buy this type of raw material directly from recycling companies. The molten material is then allowed to cool down slowly to solidify without cracks or flaws on its surface.


This process involves the shearing and compressing of iron products into large blocks, making them significantly easier to move and transport. After they have been baled, these blocks are shipped off to factories where they will be processed into more valuable forms like bars or rods for construction purposes or as raw materials for other industries like manufacturing automobiles or even electronic devices like computers or cell phones.

Iron Recycling Laws and Legislation

Iron recycling laws ensure that scrap iron is not being sold or purchased illegally. They also ensure that the scrap is safe for products and does not contain harmful materials.

Metal theft is a growing problem all over the world. In 2016, there were more than 17,000 reported incidents of metal theft an average of about 60 per day.

While these crimes range from stealing copper wiring to stealing catalytic converters, they have one thing in common: they often involve stolen scrap iron.

The following are some common types of iron recycling laws:

Anti-Dumping Laws: These laws prevent foreign companies from selling their scrap at lower prices than domestic companies can afford. This helps preserve jobs by keeping competition healthy between domestic and foreign companies.

Scrap Metal Dealer Licensing Requirements: These require anyone who sells or purchases scrap metal to obtain a license from their state government before doing so.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why recycle iron?

Iron recycling helps reduce the amount of iron ore mining in the environment. The process involves melting down scrap iron to produce new steel products. Recycling one pound of steel saves 1,500 pounds of iron ore from being mined.

Where can you sell your scrap iron?

You can sell your scrap iron to local buyers and scrap yards, some will even come and pick up your scrap iron from or you can drop it off for the market price.

The price of scrap iron is constantly fluctuating so it’s a good thing to keep in mind to look at the commodity market prices to get the best price when you take it to the scrap yard.

Can I scrap-recycle my old car?

Yes, you can scrap-recycle your old car. The best way to do this is to call a local scrapyard and ask them what they will give you for it. They will tow it away for free and pay you for the car.


If you have an old iron that’s no longer in use, you might be wondering what you can do with it. It’s a shame to see iron waste when we could reclaim it for cheaper and more valuable applications. Something like the mass production of bridges by salvaging decommissioned ships would be more cost-effective. Recycling is an option, one which we should consider further.


  • Jen Wheeler

    Jen Wheeler, co-founder of Recycling-Revolution.com, holds degrees from UC Berkeley, Yale, and Stanford. A renowned environmentalist, she's championed sustainable practices at global events and leads EcoBright Solutions, focusing on recycling education and eco-friendly products.

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