Comparing Steel and Aluminum RecyclingRecycling paper products is as easy as putting them in your recycling container and dropping them off at a neighborhood collection center. Unfortunately, recycling metals isn’t always as simple. On the difficult end of the recycling metals spectrum is steel, while aluminum is perched on the easy end. Despite the ease of aluminum recycling, it isn’t the most recycled metal in the nation.

According to the Steel Recycling Institute, steel is the most recycled material in North America, due in part to the fact that steel (like most of its metal counterparts) can be recycled infinitely and it is used in a variety of applications and industries. While a good portion of steel comes from the commercial sector, there are also residential sources for steel recycling, including appliances and the steel in our autos.

However, recycling an old refrigerator or the rust bucket in the back yard isn’t exactly quick and easy. There are hazardous waste guidelines that must be adhered to, so you’ll have to do some research to find a scrap metal recycler in your area that can take these items off your hands. Once you find a location, you’ll have to tackle the challenge of transporting the item. While steel is the most recycled material in North America, it isn’t the easiest to recycle. Don’t let the need for a more carefully planned process deter you, however, as there are nearly 6,000 appliance recycling centers in the nation and 12,000 auto dismantlers and shredders. Spend a little time researching steel recycling now and your old refrigerator may just be recycled into parts for your new hybrid. On the opposite end of the consumer-recycling-ease spectrum is aluminum. Aluminum isn’t heavy, so there isn’t going to be a significant cost to transport the product and most residential recycling programs readily accept aluminum cans. For those that don’t live in an area with curbside recycling, it is easy to find a drop-off location for aluminum recycling. Think back to when you were a kid and you wanted some extra money in the summer — perhaps you’d collect and crush cans from the neighborhood and drop them off at a centralized location for a few dollars. For the most part, aluminum is one of the easiest metals to recycle from the consumer standpoint. Too bad steel isn’t as simple to recycle as aluminum.