Whether you realize it or not, metal is an important part of your life.
This lesson will examine the pros and cons of recycling metal vs. extracting it and then will look at the pros and cons of two types of metal extraction techniques.
Options for Obtaining Metals
If you stop and look around you, how many objects do you see that contain metal? Your lamp, your dishwasher, the fence on the street corner, the mailbox, the ring on your dog’s collar.
Well, you get the idea.Have you ever thought about where all of this metal comes from? The metal came from one of two processes: recycling or extracting. Recycling means the metal was collected, re-formed, and reused. For example, maybe that metal from a soda can was reused to make the parts of a mailbox.
Extracting means the metal was removed from the earth. Both recycling and extracting have their pros and cons. This lesson will examine these pros and cons and also will look at ways copper is extracted from ores, which are minerals that contain a metal.
Pros and Cons of Extraction and Recycling
Let’s start with the advantages of extracting metal from the earth.
- Profitable. Countries that extract metals can make a lot of money because raw metals are in high demand.
Numerous jobs are in the mining industry–from extracting, to processing, to transporting.
- Economy. In addition to creating jobs directly related to mining, the mining companies pay taxes and boost the local economy by building infrastructure near the mines for workers.
Now let’s examine the downside to extraction.
- Environmental harm.
The processes required to extract metal cause pollution to the water and the soil. Extraction also can tear up the land. Often waste material results, which must be dealt with as well.
- Use of other resources.
In order to refine metals, other materials, such as fuel, must be used.
|Pros to Extraction||Cons to Extraction|
|Profitable/boosts ecomomy||Environmental harm|
|Creates jobs||Must use other resources|
|Pros to Recycling||Cons to Recycling|
|Less pollution||Fewer jobs|
|Less waste/finite amount of ore||Must collect, transport and store|
Finally, metals can be extracted from ores in numerous ways. This lesson examined two: cementation, where a more reactive metal ‘trades places’ with another metal, leaving the desired metal free from other elements. This lesson highlighted the use of scrap iron, which trades places with copper in an aqueous solution or with copper mixed among other elements in water. The second extraction method was carbon reduction, where a carbon oxide (carbon connected to oxygen) is heated, and the carbon takes the oxygen, leaving the copper isolated. Both have their pros and cons.
Take a moment to review the table.
|Pros to Cementation||Cons to Cementation|
|Less scrap iron in landfills||Requires a lot of scrap iron and storage for it|
|Replace a valuable metal (copper) with cheap metal (scrap iron)||May need to further process copper to make pure|
|Can get copper from waste water||Must sacrifice one metal to get another|
|Pros to Carbon Reduction||Cons to Carbon Reduction|
|Low cost||Releases carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas|
|Requires little energy||May need further processing to make copper pure|