Recycling Leadership

Metalcasting Facilities are critical partners in the nation’s recycling efforts. The metalcasting industry is the fourth largest contributor to the recycling manufacturing economy according to the 2001 U.S. Recycling Economic Information Study (REI). Metalcasting facilities are crucial components in the domestic recycling infrastructure, providing markets for scrap metal throughout the U.S. 

U.S. based metalcasting facilities recycle millions of tons of discarded scrap metal annually into new products ranging from engine blocks to golf clubs to municipal castings (manhole cover, grates, etc.), and recycle all types of metal including iron, steel, aluminum, brass, copper and a variety of other nonferrous metals. Metals are virtually unique among materials because they can be recycled indefinitely without losing their inherent properties.

Recycling is not a fad for metalcasters but rather an integral part of the business, as metalcasters were some of the world’s first recyclers. For centuries, metalcasters have been making new metal objects by remelting old ones. In fact, the oldest existing casting is a copper frog made in Mesopotamia that dates back to 3200 B.C.

To increase industry awareness on energy and to help the metalcasting industry benefit from energy reduction technologies, AFS offers a comprehensive CD compilation of magazine articles and publications on energy cost-saving ideas. For more information, visit the AFS E-Store.

The metalcasting industry recycles at all phases of the process, including:

  • purchase recycled-content materials and components as feedstock;
  • use and reuse a variety of materials within the melting and molding stages;
  • produce recyclable products for customers;
  • supply secondary markets with usable byproducts generated by metalcasting facilities.

A wide variety of materials including metals, sand, wax, wooden pallets, packaging materials, steel drums and other products find a second life through recycling as a result of metalcasting industry efforts.

How do metalcasting facilities save energy and reduce pollution? 

The U.S. metalcasting industry is committed to the preservation and protection of the environment and our natural resources. Metalcasters recognize the vital role we play in recycling and take this job very seriously. Every day, foundries divert valuable materials from the waste stream, which in turn reduces the burden on landfills and minimizes the need for mining of virgin materials.

Processing raw materials places heavy demands on our nation’s energy resources; however, it requires 95% less energy to make castings out of recycled metals.  Reprocessing materials in the metalcasting industry also has a domino effect by reducing the energy demands for mining, refining and many other metal-related processes. For example, every pound of steel recycled is estimated to save 5450 BTU’s of energy, enough to light a 60-watt bulb for over 26 hours. Metalcasting facilities recycle more than 14 million tons, or 31.5 million pounds of steel each year . . . enough energy to light the homes of Chicago for one year!

Recycling also reduces pollution risks by keeping materials out of the disposal facilities. For instance, reusing steel reduces both water and air pollution and saves water, compared to making new steel from iron ore.  According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, recycling steel reduces air pollution by 86%, water use by 40%, water pollution by 97% and mining wastes by 97% in comparison to using iron ore.

Is recycling good business? 

Metalcasting recycling efforts not only support the preservation of natural resources, but also make good business sense. Making castings from recycled metal significantly reduces energy usage, minimizing one of the largest expenses faced by individual facilities. Metalcasting sands are high quality industrial sands, costing from $38-65 per ton, so internal industry reclamation and reuse efforts result in significant cost savings.  According to an industry study, the average sand grain is reclaimed and reused an average of eight times.  Diverting metalcasting byproducts from landfill disposal into recycling and beneficial use markets reduces disposal costs as well as saving landfill space.

Increased awareness, acceptance and proactive government policies are critical in order to continue the upward trend of recycling and reusing materials whenever possible. Foundries want to continue to be recycling leaders and responsible stewards of the environment.

Closing the Recycling Loop 

Resource conservation, reuse and recycling are important parts of the global movement toward sustainability.  Since the passage of the U.S. Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), much attention has been paid to recycling post-consumer or municipal solid waste. U.S. EPA and other partners have more recently embarked on an effort to truly close the recycling loop by focusing on reusing and recycling the byproducts of manufacturing industries.

Under the Resource Conservation Challenge (RCC) , the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is engaged in a series of voluntary partnerships to increase the reuse and recycling of industrial materials. Metalcasting sand is one of four focus materials under the RCC’s Industrial Materials Recycling  initiative. The metalcasting industry, U.S. EPA and other partners are working toward the goal of diverting nonhazardous metalcasting sands and slags from landfill disposal.

One of the largest opportunities to recycle metalcasting byproducts lies in the construction industry. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), an arm of the U.S. Department of Transportation, has a policy to increase the use of recycled materials in construction, reconstruction and maintenance of the nation’s transportation infrastructure. Metalcasting sand is one of six target materials for FHWA’s recycling efforts. Transportation is the largest consumer of metalcasting products, so it is fitting that metalcasting's byproducts should help to rebuild America’s infrastructure at the same time that its products keep the U.S. on the move.