All types of zinc-containing products are recyclable and zinc is recycled at all stages of production and use. Zinc can be recycled from new scrap – zinc containing waste generated during manufacturing – and old scrap, such as used galvanized steel and zinc alloys. The presence of a zinc coating on steel or in alloys does not affect their recyclability and the recycling loop is endless, as zinc can be recovered again and again without loss of physical or chemical properties.
As metallic bonds are restored upon re-solidification, metals continually recover their original performance properties, even after multiple recycling loops. This allows them to be used again and again, in many cases for the same application. By contrast, the performance characteristics of most non-metallic materials degrade after recycling.
When a building reaches the end of its life, its zinc-containing products can be fully recycled or, in some cases, directly re-used to extend their functional service, e.g. lighting and hardware. More than 95% of the zinc products used in buildings are collected at the building’s end-of-life.
It has been estimated that approximately 70% of the zinc produced worldwide originates from mined ores while the remaining 30% comes from recycled or secondary zinc. The industry’s mature recycling infrastructure results in reduced energy use, reduced emissions, and minimized waste disposal.
Globally, approximately 45% of available zinc at the end of life is recovered and recycled. However, for developed regions like Australia the end-of-life recycling rates are significantly higher. In some cases, this rate can exceed 95% for products such as zinc sheet roofing and brass.