Zinc is Recyclable

Approximately 60% of the zinc consumed worldwide originates from mined ores and the remaining 40% from recycled or secondary zinc. The level of recycling increases each year, in step with progress in zinc production and recycling technology.

For the zinc and steel industries, recycling of zinc-coated steel provides an important new source of raw material. Historically, the generation of zinc-rich dusts from steel recycling was a source of loss from the life-cycle (landfill); however, today technologies exist which provide incentive for steel recyclers to minimize waste. Thus, the recycling loop is endless - both zinc and steel can be recycled again and again without any loss of their physical or chemical properties.

Zinc is recycled at all stages of production and use, including scrap that arises during the production of galvanized steel sheet, scrap generated during manufacturing and installation processes and from end-of-life products. The presence of zinc coating on steel does not affect steel’s recyclability, and all types of zinc-coated products are recyclable. Similarly, the presence of zinc in alloys does not affect its recyclability; the alloys are remelted and used to manufacture new products of the same alloy.

Because many zinc products have a long, useful life, typical recycling indicators are difficult to apply.  IZA has developed a Zinc Industry Recycling Rates Calculator (ZIRRC) to allow efficient calculation of zinc recycling rates by end-use application and/or sector. 

The amount of zinc available for recycling varies, due to the generally long, useful life of zinc-containing products, which is variable and can range from 15-plus years for the zinc-coated steel panels used in cars or household appliances - to over 100 years for zinc sheet used for roofing. Galvanized steel used in public infrastructure applications, such as street lighting columns and transmission towers, are often in service for 50 years or more. All of these products tend to be replaced due to obsolescence, not because the zinc has ceased to protect the underlying steel or building.

For more information, please visit http://www.zinc.org/info/zinc_recycling.