Recycling Nickel Alloys: How it Works

Unlike copper, nickel is rarely used by itself but is commonly mixed with other metals to produce alloys. Most alloys are made with a specific trait and application (corrosion resistance, mechanical properties and service life) in mind. Because it is usually in alloy form, recycling nickel requires a slightly different process than recycling elemental metals.

The nickel content of these alloys ranges widely: special engineering steels can have a nickel content as low as 1-3% while electronic industries use alloys with a nickel content of 40-90% .

Types of Recycling Nickel Alloys

Generally, special alloys are recycled so that they have the same contents as the original material. This is because the specifications and the cost of producing these alloys is more time and cost efficient than recreating the alloys from their recycled components.

If the identity of the alloy can be maintained from fabrication to end-of-life of the component, the alloy producer can use that scrap alloy to make new alloy components. This is economically and environmentally efficient as it allows the producer to achieve high quality product specifications without incurring extra refining or qualification costs.

In practice though, products do not always come out to have the same ratio of components as the original alloy. Often times, the scrap gets mixed in with the alloys as well.

Scrap metal recyclers, like Gulf Coast Scrap Metal, has various ways of handling mixed nickel-containing scrap material in order to optimize the retained value of the scrap. One common technique is to melt the mixture in order to produce “remelt” ingot of a known composition for subsequent resale.

A variant of this is to adjust the composition of the remelted scrap by adding controlled amounts of primary metals in order to produce ingot to a required specification for resale. A further technique is to “blend” recycle material from different sources to produce a mixture which, when subsequently melted by the purchaser, will produce a melt with a specified composition.

Gulf Coast Scrap Metal is a Houston scrap metal recycling facility that specializes in recycling nickel alloys. Call 713-868-4111 for more information about our prices and our process.