Metal Cogs

Is Metal Biodegradable?

Metal is a material that is used for everything from construction to the manufacturing of cars. It has quickly become one of the most important materials in existence.

Is metal biodegradable and is our use of it damaging the environment? We find out in this article.

What is Metal?

Metal is a word used to describe any material that has been forged from mined raw materials such as iron ore.

Most metals when newly prepared, polished, or fractured show a lustrous appearance and conduct electricity and heat well. Metals are typically malleable or ductile which means they can be easily manipulated or bent under stress.

In scientific terms a metal can be a chemical element like iron, an alloy like stainless steel or a molecular compound like polymeric sulfur nitride.

Common metals include:

  • Aluminium
  • Steel
  • Iron
  • Copper
  • Tin

Is Metal Biodegradable?

No, metal is not biodegradable.

Metals like iron rivets or sheets of steel eventually deteriorate due to wear and tear but do not decompose like other materials.

Small pieces of metal will rust and eventually flake away into the atmosphere. This can take anywhere between 1 to 100 years depending on conditions such as the presence of moisture.

Larger pieces of metal and metals that have been galvanized or treated will not rust to any meaningful extent and will sit in the environment indefinitely.

Metal is not biodegradable because microorganisms in landfill sites do not consume metal particles for nutrition.

Is Metal Eco Friendly?

Metal is mined and formed from materials that can be considered non-renewable. It is predicted that iron ore reserves could run out within 100 years.

Smelting metal ore requires the consumption of vast amounts of energy. This energy is usually derived from burning fossil fuels which are also non-renewable and cause air pollution.

On the plus side, most metal can be recycled after use. This helps us to reduce the amount of virgin metal that is smelted.

Conclusion

Metal is not biodegradable or compostable but it can be recycled.

The widespread recycling of metal is one important way that we can preserve metal ore reserves for the future.

Metal is an invaluable resource that cannot be replaced. To improve sustainability and reduce the environmental impact of metal forging we need to look at ways to smelt metal more efficiently.