Can you recycle rusty metals?


If you have scrap metal that needs to be recycled, some of it may be rusty. In this case, you should know that even though rust impacts the metal recycling process, it’s still recyclable. Here’s what you should know.


Explaining rust

Rust, also known as hydrated iron oxide, forms when iron interacts with oxygen and water. It’s reddish-brown and produces a rough residue on the affected metal’s surface. Iron and alloys containing iron, such as steel, are the only metals that can rust. (Stainless steel, however, contains chromium, which makes it rust-resistant.)


Over time, rust can entirely damage metal items. Hydrated iron oxide is brittle and will flake away, thus exposing raw metal underneath to more air and water, thereby creating more rust. If left unchecked, rust will eventually eat holes in outdoor furniture, bicycles and vehicles.


Recycling rust

Rust gets removed from metal during the recycling process. Metal recyclers shred scrap iron and steel so that they melt more efficiently. Metal manufacturers add carbon to the molten metal to remove impurities such as paint, ink and rust before creating new metal bars and bricks for reuse.


However, rust impacts the price you receive for scrap metal. Metal is bought and sold by weight, and rusted metals weigh less than metals in pristine condition.


Additionally, scrap metal dealers will only accept objects made mostly from metal, so if you have an item that’s half plastic and half metal and the metal is rusted away, it probably can’t be recycled.


If you have rusted metals you want to sell, it’s best to call a metal recycler to see if the items are recyclable before transporting them.


Corroded copper

Non-ferrous metals, such as copper, brass and zinc, oxidize differently than iron. Copper and brass lose their shine and turn a darker colour when exposed to the elements. These oxidized metals are still 100 per cent recyclable, although they do lose some of their market value.


Removing and preventing rust

You can remove surface rust from metal with household products such as lemon juice, baking soda, vinegar and steel wool pads. Painting metal objects with anti-corrosive primers and paints will prevent rust from forming in the first place.


Scrap metal recycling in Edmonton

General Recycling Industries Ltd. has more than 40 years of experience in the recycling industry and can answer your questions regarding recycling scrap metal. We collect all types of ferrous and non-ferrous metals including iron and steel. If you want to recycle scrap metal, a car or industrial equipment, contact us today at one of our Edmonton locations.