The History of Metal Recycling

We tend to think of recycling as a modern phenomenon brought about by concerns for environmentalism, but the truth is that scrap metal recycling is a relatively ancient practice. Just as it is today, manufacturers have been making use of scrap metal as an excellent cost-effective alternative to new metals since at least 700 BC. Reforging metal is most likely the world’s oldest recycling practice and has even been used in the creation of some of the world’s most famous landmarks and inventions.

Historians have reported that at least a few of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World were created using recycled metals. This includes the iron and bronze used to create the Colossus of Rhodes in 282 BC, made from reforged weapons (which was then recycled again nearly a millennium later when it was melted and sold), and the lead used to build the terrace slabs of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon 600 BC. Even the copper chisels used to build the pyramids of Egypt were melted and reformed once they became too blunt.


Our ancestors used recycled metals as a way to make the most out of their resources and be as economical as possible in their manufacturing – exactly the same as it is today when we scrap cars or recycle trade metal from construction and manufacturing. Melting and reforging metals has always just been common sense, but it also played a key role in crafting some of the most important inventions in human history.

Perhaps the best example of this is the role metal recycling played in Gutenberg’s printing press of 1436 – an invention which revolutionized the way knowledge was disseminated and led to the mass production of books and pamphlets, giving the public access to information and news like never before. Gutenberg found an alloy that would melt easily and cool rapidly so all the type letters used in the press could be melted and reforged every few days.


Archaeologists have suggested that metal recycling typically peaked in times of extreme turmoil such as war or famine – when resources were scarce. Times like these forced people to work together to make the best out of what they had, be resourceful, and innovate wherever possible.

World War I and II saw several important innovations in resource management. This is when we saw the first recycling propaganda from around the globe calling for people to manage their resources better and donate their scrap to help the cause. Since then we’ve seen waste management come on leaps and bounds with businesses (like ours) dedicated to dealing in scrap metal.

Of course, today’s turmoil of the pandemic has brought its own challenges – one that has made coming together difficult! But we’ve still tried to adapt by making sure our scrap yard is COVID-secure.


From the ancient world to your humble local scrap merchant, metal recycling has come such a long way. At Singleton’s we love being part of the age-old process of sending metal off to be reforged. It’s so important that we handle our resources as best we can. Metal is so valuable a resource that scrap merchants like us will pay you for your scrap. Learn more about how things work at our scrap metal yard and get involved in a metal recycling industry that’s thousands of years old!

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