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Cast iron. Pig iron. Pure copper. Titanium. Zirconium. According to the Royal Society of Chemistry, there are 94 types of metal in the periodic table. Each metal has its own unique properties and suitability to be used by manufacturers across a broad spectrum.

Metal plays a fundamental role in industries, from heavy machinery bases and frames to wheel rims, drink cans and bearings. The good news for our environment is that over 10 million tonnes of metal is recycled annually in the UK. In fact, virtually all metals can be recycled into high-quality new metals. According to EU figures, using recycled steel to make new steel reduces air pollution by 86 per cent, water use by 40 per cent and water pollution by 76 per cent. So, how can we continue to ensure that different types of metal are being recycled?

In this article, we’ll explain the different types of metal and, most importantly, explore which can be recycled. By the end of reading this post, you’ll have a clear idea of how to recycle your metal waste sustainably and simply.

Different Categories of Metal

The most common way to classify metal is by iron content. Using this method, metal can be divided into three categories:

  • Ferrous metal – contains iron. Examples include steel, cast iron and wrought iron. Ferrous metals tend to be strong and durable, but their magnetic properties make them prone to corrosion.
  • Non-ferrous metal – contains no iron. Examples include aluminium, cobalt, gold, lead, nickel, tin, titanium and zinc. Non-ferrous metals tend to be more expensive but have non-magnetic properties and low density.
  • Metal alloy – a combination of elements and metals. Examples include sterling silver, silicon steel and brass. These metals tend to be in high demand as they have greater durability, are more resistant to corrosion or have increased load-bearing capabilities.

Types of metal can also be classified by their atomic structure within the periodic table. Through this method, a metal may be known as alkaline, alkaline earth, or a transition metal. A third way to classify metals is whether they are magnetic or non-magnetic. Classification helps define characteristics and direct users within an industry to the material they need.

Different Types of Metal and How They Can Be Recycled

Let’s explore the most common metal types, understand how they are often used within manufacturing and define whether recycling options are available.


Aluminium is regularly used in aircraft, cars and buildings. This type of metal is lightweight, corrosion-resistant and can become hard and rigid when mixed with other alloys. Aluminium is one of the most commonly recycled metals. Scrap or secondary aluminium has a significantly lower melting point than raw aluminium and is easily cast into new objects. Or it can be broken down into powder. An aluminium can, for example, has no limits to the amount of times it can be recycled.

At Waste Mission, we have years of experience recycling all grades of aluminium for our clients. We understand our customers ‘ challenges, from skeleton sheets and off-cuts to aluminium swarf. We use Niton X-ray analysers to sort large quantities of aluminium. Using this technology ensures that our customers are paid accurately and, subsequently, the foundries we sell to are assured of the quality of their material.

We have sustainable and cost-effective solutions to help you recycle your aluminium.

Find out more.


Brass is commonly used in bearings, gears, musical instruments and jewellery and is an alloy of copper and zinc. This type of metal is strong and durable but also very malleable, corrosion resistant and will never spark due to its low friction coefficient.

Brass can be recycled by melting it down and reforming it into new products an infinite number of times with no loss in base properties or performance. This makes it an excellent type of metal as industries move towards embracing a more sustainable future. With its high recyclability, brass scrap contributes to a relatively closed-loop system that keeps costs down, conserves energy and reduces carbon emissions.


This type of metal is commonly alloyed with copper and tin and is used across a broad range of applications, from sculptures and electrical connectors to mirrors and ship fittings. While stronger than copper, brass is corrosion-resistant and has lower thermal and electrical conductivity.

This non-ferrous metal, regularly used to make statues or plaques, is one of the most commonly stolen metals. If metal theft is affecting your industry, read our recent article on tackling this relatively unknown crime.

At Waste Mission, we can help your business reliably segregate scrap brass to ensure incompatible compositions are separated through close supervision, documentation, excellent storage and good communication. This will help reduce your waste disposal costs and ensure that the end product can continue to be used without impurities.


Copper is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity and is regularly used in electrical circuits, plumbing and cooking utensils. This type of metal is soft and malleable and can easily be rolled or drawn into wires. Copper’s corrosion resistance properties make it long-lasting, with little maintenance required.

Copper is 100 per cent recyclable, and there is no difference in the quality of mined and recycled copper. The good news for our planet is that 60 per cent of all copper produced since the 1900s is still in use.

But unfortunately, copper is also one of the most widely stolen metals. If metal theft is increasing in your business, read through our recent article on metal theft. At Waste Mission, we design and manufacture our containers at Cavendish in Stevenage. To help stop metal theft, they are lidded, lockable, and Smartwater labelled. Plus, security tags can be provided for you to ‘lock’ the container whilst it is being transported. Find out more about the containers we offer.


Lead can be found in water pipes, car batteries, buildings and bridge linings. This type of metal is heavy in weight, with a low melting point. It is easily cut and occasionally added to copper alloys to make them easier to cut. In the 1800s, lead was discovered to be toxic, so it’s not used as frequently today, but it continues to be one of the most valuable metals to steal. Find out more about managing metal theft in our article.

Lead disposal in landfill sites is illegal due to toxicity, but it’s also one of the best metals to recycle. Once recycled, lead is no different from newly-sourced metal in terms of quality and can often be reused without limits.

We can help you turn your lead waste into a valuable resource through correct recycling and recovery of materials.


Wood stoves, nails, gates, and, let’s not forget, the Eiffel Tower, iron is the most commonly used and cheapest metal. This type of metal is strong and hard, with excellent ductility. There are three types of iron: pig iron, cast iron and wrought iron.

However rusty your iron is, it can be recycled. Not only is recycling iron better for the environment, but it’s also economically good for your business. Mining new iron ore pollutes waterways and the earth, and refining ore releases air pollutants. So, the more iron we recycle, the less iron ore mining and processing will impact our planet.


Steel is the most widely used metal in the world. From high-carbon steel to low-carbon steel, over 3,500 grades of steel are available today. This type of metal can be used across a diverse range of products, from buildings to electrical equipment, train wheels and pressure vessels. Steel is an alloy of carbon and iron. It’s strong and durable and can easily be recycled.

Ninety-eight per cent of all steel is recycled, and the great news is that it can be recycled numerous times without losing any of its qualities. But it’s essential to remember that the differing grades of steel have wildly different values so segregation for recycling is absolutely key, particularly for stainless steel. That is why easy sorting and storage solutions are essential.

Whether you have carbon steel or stainless steel, at Waste Mission, we can work with your business to put a cost-effective steel recycling solution in place to ensure you get the maximum value out of your scrap steel while keeping this precious material out of landfills.

Choosing a Company to Recycle Your Metal Waste

Metal recycling is essential if your business is looking to embrace a more sustainable future. At Waste Mission, we can help turn all types of metal waste into savings. With over 40 years of experience as a specialist metal recycling company, we specialise in offering simple, sustainable solutions.

Through our bespoke service, we work closely with you to comprehend your unique waste requirements, offering tailored solutions that seamlessly help you reach your sustainability targets.

Our responsive team of experts becomes an extension of your business, taking care of waste so you can stay focused on your core operations. We promise to:

  1. Guide you to reduce waste and increase your profitability
  2. Help turn your waste into solutions, reducing reliance on new materials
  3. Navigate complex regulations for you, ensuring you meet environmental and legal requirements
  4. Provide a waste portal (for contracted customers) to easily access your waste production, recycling levels, and carbon footprint data.

Let’s work together to close the loop within the production process, reducing the amount of metal waste that goes into landfills and the amount of primary raw materials required.