The metals recycling industry is highly regulated. All scrap metal dealers must be correctly licensed from mobile collectors to large, multinational operators.
Metals recycling is a pyramid industry which includes many small, family owned companies, as well as large, international businesses. Operators carry out a range of functions, often including several of the following activities, with smaller operators supplying partially or fully processed metals to larger operators and traders:
- Collection, weighing, sorting and distribution of metals: dealing with a wide range of suppliers, including engineering industries; small traders, such as plumbers or vehicle dismantlers; local authority collection sites; and householders disposing of domestic appliances.
- Shearing – reducing the size of large pieces of metal by cutting
- Baling/compacting – to improve ease of handling and transportation
- Shredding – reducing feedstock to fist-sized lumps; and separating metals from other materials using magnets and air classification methods. A large shredder can process a car in less than ten seconds.
- Media separation – further separation of any remaining non ferrous metals using liquid density and hand or mechanical sorting methods
- International metals trading – moving metals around the world