It’s estimated that 80 million tons of metal is recycled every year in America. Just how does metal recycling work? The British Metals Recycling Association describes how metal is recycled.

Let’s follow the journey of an old refrigerator through a metal recycling service. After making its way to the recycling plant.


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First, all loose items and cabling are removed from the refrigerator. The doors are then removed. Compressers, devices to keep the refrigerator cold, are removed using a device similar to the “jaws of life” used by emergency services. The refrigerator is then treated with liquid nitrogen to prevent any explosions from chemicals the refrigerator contains.

The refrigerator is now ready for recycling. It’s dropped in a huge machine called a cross cut grinder that breaks it up into little bits. The bits are then dried off in another hug machine called a drying screw.

When dry, the bits go through a sieve and then to a bagging station. Metal is separated from plastic by means of a huge rotating magnet. The metal bits land in huge storage bins. About 65% of a refrigerator is steel, which is now ready to be turned into new metal products. It also has 12% plastic, which can also be recycled.

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