Metal: History, Composition, Types, Production, And Their Recycling

Juliet D'cruz

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The first metal discovered was copper, still in prehistory, in the Middle East. With the discovery of this material and later other metals, it was possible to develop more efficient tools than stone. With the use of metal, it was also possible to manufacture the wheel. Nowadays, it is found in our home (e.g., pots, cupboards, cutlery), cars, food packaging, etc. Click here to know about Tungsten Carbide hard scrap

It is solid, does not let through light (opaque), and conducts electricity and heat well, having an exceptional shine called metallic. When heated, it is malleable and can be molded into various shapes, from wires to sheets and bars. Metals can be found mixed in soil and rocks and are called ores.

Metal Composition

Ores are substances found in soils and rocks from which metals can be extracted. Some metals, such as iron and copper, are removed from ores in the form used. Others, such as steel and bronze, need to be associated with other substances (e.g., steel = iron + coal).

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Types Of Metal

There are many types of metals, now reaching a total of sixty-eight. There are quite different ones, like mercury (which is liquid) and sodium (which is light). For many years, the best known and used are iron, copper, tin, lead, gold, and silver. Metals can be separated into two large groups: ferrous, composed of iron, and non-ferrous.


Iron was discovered even in prehistory; however, as we know it today, steel was only developed in 1856, reaching significant repercussions in the industrial environment. Steel is more resistant than cast iron and can be produced in large quantities, serving as a raw material for many industries.

With the technological advance of furnaces and the growing demand for products made of iron and steel, the steel industry increased production. However, the growth of this sector has also brought an increase in the extraction of wood for charcoal production and the emission of polluting gases into the atmosphere by burning charcoal. According to World steel (global iron association), world crude steel production in 2014 was 1.66 billion tons, corresponding to a 1.2% growth compared to the previous year.

Iron and steel are found in agriculture (harvesters, harvesters, seeders, ploughs, etc.), transport (trucks, cars, ships, planes, etc.), civil construction, automobile industry, and packaging domestic appliances, and many other uses.

Steel and tin cans are widely used in the national packaging market, mainly for storing food, lubricating oils, metal lids, etc.

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To obtain steel sheets, it is necessary to extract iron ore from nature, called hematite, and from its reduction with charcoal, a metal sheet with a high degree of purity is produced. Steel cans made with metallic plates, known as tinplate, are composed of iron and a small part of tin (0.20%) or chrome (0.007%), materials that protect them against oxidation (rust).

Steel Recycling

Steel recycling dates back to the history of the use of metal. Recycled, it maintains its properties such as hardness, strength, and versatility. Cans that are typically thrown away can be returned to us in the form of new cans or as various utensils – wire, car parts, hinges, door handles, and many others.

In storage areas, cans are pressed to increase their density and improve transport conditions. They are sent to the steel industries and the other metallic scraps to be transformed into billets or tinplate. Steel cans released into nature undergo oxidation within an average period of 3 years, turning into iron oxides or hydroxides. If recovered, they can be infinitely recycled.

Metal Recycling

Metal recycling like Tungsten Carbide hard scrap is considered the secondary process for obtaining this material, and in this case, the used metal is melted with less energy consumption. Therefore, one of the essential advantages of metal recycling is energy savings when comparing its production from ore extraction and processing. Its recycling takes place in different industrial units depending on the type, and in the case of heavy metals, the process is more complex.

Ferrous materials can be easily separated from others using a machine with a magnet that attracts steel objects.