What is the Difference Between Ferrous & Non-Ferrous Metals?

This article delves into both ferrous and non-ferrous metals, helping you understand all there is to know about each type. Find out what they are, how they differ from each other, whether they’re recyclable and much more.

What is Ferrous Metal?

Ferrous metals refer to any metal that contains iron. They are favoured for their tensile strength and durability, so are often utilised in housing construction, large-scale piping and industrial containers.

What is Non-Ferrous Metal?

Non-ferrous metals, on the other hand, don’t contain iron. They are much more malleable and lighter than ferrous metals, making them particularly suited for use where strength is required but weight needs to be considered, such as in the aircraft industry.

Properties of Ferrous & Non-Ferrous Metals

Resistance to Rust & Corrosion
Ferrous metals generally have a high carbon content, which as a result, makes them vulnerable to rust when exposed to the elements. However, wrought iron – which is a ferrous metal – tends to resist rust due to the fact that it contains so much iron.

As non-ferrous metals have no iron content, they naturally have a higher resistance to rust and corrosion. This makes them ideal for use in things like gutters and roofing.

Magnetic Properties
Most ferrous metals have magnetic properties, which makes them very useful in the manufacturing of motor and electrical appliances. It is in fact the use of ferrous metal that enables you to pin reminders and shopping lists to your fridge!

Non-ferrous metals aren’t magnetic. This makes them suitable for use in electronic applications and wiring.

Weight
Ferrous metals are heavier than their non-ferrous counterparts.

Cost
Non-ferrous metals are usually more expensive than ferrous metals. This is because they are in higher demand and don’t tend to be in as good supply as ferrous metals.

Recycling
Both non-ferrous and ferrous metals are recyclable. Non-ferrous metals can be recycled time and time again because they don’t degrade or lose any chemical properties during the recycling process. Ferrous metals need to be melted, purified and then compacted into solid blocks.

As non-ferrous materials are relatively scarce, it’s important they are recycled. However, all scrap metal should be recycled as it helps to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill, decreases greenhouse gas emissions, protects the environment and saves energy on natural resource extraction.

Ferrous Metal Examples & Uses

Some of the most commonly found examples of ferrous metal include steel, cast iron and wrought iron.

Steel
Renowned for its toughness and machinability, steel is widely used in the construction and manufacturing industries.

Cast Iron
Hard and resistant to wear, cast iron is perfect for use in a variety of applications from cookware to water pipes and machine tools.

Wrought Iron
Slightly different to most other ferrous metals, wrought iron resists corrosion and oxidation. It is frequently used for fencing and railing.

Non-Ferrous Metal Examples & Uses

Aluminium, copper and lead are among the most commonly used types of non-ferrous metal.

Aluminium
Not only is aluminium lightweight, but it can also be easily machined and welded. It is used in the manufacturing of aircraft as well as food cans, cars and kitchen utensils.

Copper
Highly ductile, malleable and a good conductor of heat and electricity, copper is a favourable choice for electrical wiring.

Lead
Lead has a low melting point and low tensile strength. It is typically used in electrical power cables, batteries and soldering.

Non-Ferrous & Ferrous Metal Recycling

Scrap metal – both ferrous and non-ferrous – is highly sought after when it comes to recycling. This is because the amount of energy saved by recycling compared to mining a new metal ore is significant. Recycling aluminium, for example, requires just 5% of the energy needed to produce virgin aluminium.

Get Started with SL Recycling

Here at SL Recycling, we specialise in recycling ferrous and non-ferrous metals efficiently. We process thousands of tonnes of metal every year at our state of the art recycling facility, ensuring it is managed in a way that is good for the planet.

We take metal from a variety of sources, including the general public, other scrap metal merchants, local trades and government bodies to name but a few.

To find out more about how we can help you turn your scrap metal into an income stream, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of our team today.

See more: Advantages of Recycling Metal – Why is it Important to Recycle Metal?

See more: What is Waste Management? The Ultimate Guide to Waste Management