Waste metal is an important industrial raw material. The melting of scrap metal saves resources and energy as compared with the use of newly extracted ores. Metal waste that contains hazardous substances or electronic components should be treated separately during disposal.

Waste metal can be differentiated into ferrous and non-ferrous metals. Ferrous metals are generally magnetic. Non-ferrous metals include copper and copper alloys, lead, zinc, tin, aluminium and precious metals, i.e. gold and silver.

Ecological assessment

Waste metal can be reintroduced to the economic cycle with minimal losses. This reduces negative environmental and health impacts that arise during the extraction and processing of the metals. The separate collection of scrap metal is a traditional economic activity. Increasing raw materials prices have resulted in the steady improvement in the processes for recovering metals from objects or devices with a complex composition.

Separate collection

Specialised waste disposal companies accept scrap from assembly, repair, maintenance and demolition. Other metal waste arises from the processing of waste from electrical and electronic devices and other waste such as slag.

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No hazardous substances must be allowed to enter the environment during recycling. Hence, the quality control carried out by construction and waste disposal companies must ensure that hazardous substances are removed from waste metal. This is particularly important during the demolition of plants and facilities and dismantling of devices. In accordance with the Ordinance on the Avoidance and the Disposal of Waste (ADWO), construction companies are obliged to separate waste. Employees should systematically identify and dispose of separately metal parts or components containing pollutants such as PCBs and asbestos. This hazardous waste may not be mixed with other waste. This is stipulated in the Ordinance on Movements of Waste (VeVA).

The communes generally collect unused metal objects from households and businesses and pass them on to waste disposal companies.


The waste disposal companies remove impurities like electronic components, loose combustible or mineral materials during the inspection of waste on entry. They then roughly sort the waste into ferrous and steel scrap and non-ferrous scrap and break up large parts. Waste collected form households and businesses generally goes into a shredder which separates the metals from other substances that may be stuck to it (e.g. plastics). Magnetic separators and other processes are used to separate ferrous metals from non-ferrous metals. The different types of scrap, which are processed in accordance with the customers‘ requirements, are sent to steel works, foundries and metals-processing plants where they are further processed into semi-finished products, e.g. reinforcing steel.

Residues such as scrap debris and shredder light fraction arise from the processing of scrap metal. This consists mostly of mineral or combustible materials and a small proportion of metal. Waste that is suited for recycle and landfill is separated insofar as possible. The rest must undergo thermal processing.


Disposal is financed in accordance with the polluter pays principle. Depending on the level of purity and the quantity delivered, metal waste may also have a sale value.

Action required

The FOEN Is currently developing legal requirements for the Obligation to determine pollutants. This involves specifying who is responsible, and to what extent, for identifying the hazardous substances in a building or facility prior to demolition.

Further information

Last modification 25.08.2020

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