Scrap Metal fact:
Ferrous metals and alloys contain iron; non-ferrous materials do not.
There are several other factors that differentiate the two….
The characteristics of ferrous metals
Ferrous metals include mild steel, carbon steel, stainless steel, cast iron, and wrought iron. These metals are primarily used for their tensile strength and durability, especially mild steel which helps hold up the tallest skyscrapers and the longest bridges in the world.
You can also find ferrous metals in housing construction, industrial containers, large-scale piping, automobiles, rails for railroad and transportation, most of tools and hardware you use around the house, and the knives you cook with at home.
Due to the high amounts of carbon used when creating them, most ferrous metals and alloys are vulnerable to rust when exposed to the elements. While this isn’t true of wrought iron, which is so iron pure that it resists oxidization, or stainless steel, which is protected thanks to its high chromium content, it’s a good rule of thumb that if you see rust, it’s a ferrous metal.
Most ferrous metals also have magnetic properties, which makes them very useful in the creation of large motors and electrical appliances.
Most importantly, ferrous metals make up the most recycled materials in the world.
The characteristics of non-ferrous metals
Non-ferrous metals include aluminum, brass, copper, nickel, tin, lead, and zinc, as well as precious metals like gold and silver. While non-ferrous metals can provide strength, they are primarily used where their differences from ferrous metals can provide an advantage.
For instance, non-ferrous metals are much more malleable than ferrous metals.
Non-ferrous metals are also much lighter, making them well-suited for use where strength is needed, but weight is a factor, such as in the aircraft or canning industries.
Because they contain no iron, non-ferrous metals have a higher resistance to rust and corrosion, which is why you’ll find these materials in use for gutters, water pipes, roofing, and road signs.
Finally, they are also non-magnetic, which makes them perfect for use in small electronics and as electrical wiring.
As far as recycling goes, aluminum is the third most recycled material in the world.
However, many other non-ferrous materials like copper, brass and lead are relatively scarce, and metallurgists rely heavily on scrap material recycling to make new ones.