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Ferrous metals

Eifelturm, Paris

Austria’s 34,000 tonnes of ferrous metals are equivalent to about 3.4 times the mass of the Eiffel Tower in Paris

Source of recycled ferrous metals

In Austria, some 34,400 tonnes of ferrous (iron-containing) metals are recovered from waste electrical and electronic equipment each year. That’s the equivalent of about 34,000 midsized cars, or about 3.4 times the mass of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
The table and graph below provide an overview of how much ferrous metal is recycled from each of the five collection and processing categories used in the collection of waste electrical and electronic equipment.

Ferrous metals Mass [t] Proportion [%]
Large electrical appliances 12.418 36,1
Small appliances and devices 12.132 35,3
Display devices 1.410 4,1
Refrigerators and freezers 8.135 23,7
Device batteries 261 0,8
Total 34.356 100,00


Recycling processes for ferrous metals

The ferrous metal portion is recovered primarily from the collection and processing categories for large appliances, small appliances and devices, refrigerators and freezers, and display devices, along with a small amount from device batteries. In the recycling process, the devices collected in these categories are broken down into small pieces, and the ferrous metal portion is separated out by magnetic separators.

In Austria, most large appliances are broken down in one of six large shredders, while small appliances and devices and refrigerators and freezers are mostly processed with smaller shredders or smashers. The ferrous metals in display devices are mostly recovered from metallic frame parts and electron beam units through manual disassembly of the devices.
Large shredders break down equipment with spinning hammers attached to a central shaft. These shredders can break down entire cars into fist-sized chunks, and can therefore handle nearly any large appliance quite easily too. For images of a large-capacity shredder and a brief technical description, see e.g. the website of Müller Guttenbrun under the menu item for Service > WEEE. The “How It Works” item includes a brief animated depiction of the shredding process.

Collection categories from which the 34,000 t of recycled ferrous metals are recovered

For more information, see the website of the Metso Corporation. Smaller smashers or grinders are used to break down small appliances and devices and refrigerators and freezers so that their ferrous metals can be recovered. You can find pictures and descriptions of a smasher at the following link:  KM Recycling.

Once the devices and appliances have been broken down, the ferrous metals are extracted with a magnet, e.g. by using an overbelt magnetic separator, a magnetic roller, or a magnetic drum. Images and brief technical descriptions of these can be found e.g. on the home pages of companies like Steinert (under “Products”) and IFE under (“Magnetic Technology”).

Once the ferrous metals have been sorted for recycling, large recycling companies deliver them right back to steel mills, where they are fed into the smelting process.