Few materials are as dynamically useful as Zinc. Traditionally known for the anti-rust properties it provides with the galvanization (zinc coating) of steel, zinc is also able protect metal roofing, make high quality alloys, and constitutes one of the main ingredients in brass. Zinc has been an important element in engineering material for decades, and will continue to be relevant well into the future.
Zinc has the potential to be recycled. But unlike other metallic materials, Zinc recycling requires dealing with more complex issues, such as the separation of zinc from galvanized steel. However, modern recycling technology allows Zinc to be recycled in an efficient manner, with 90% of collected zinc-containing products being subjected to zinc reclamation processes. Galvanized steel, constituting the majority of collected zinc products, is well suited to recycling and provides an excellent source for steel and zinc scrap.
One of the most widely applied zinc recycling procedures is Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) heating, used primarily on collected galvanized steel. The collected scrap is heated until the zinc volatizes, separating from the steel as a gas. This gas is collected and treated, causing the deposition of zinc dust. After treatment in a Waelz kiln, the dust becomes zinc oxide which in turn becomes a raw material used for the production of zinc metal.
At present, 40% of zinc used worldwide comes from reclaimed zinc sources. Processes and technology in zinc recycling continue to advance, making reclaimed zinc an increasingly viable source. Considering the nonrenewable nature of existing zinc ores, it is likely that zinc recycling will become an even more compelling source as time passes.