Chemistry - Making Metal Supplies Go Further (AQA)
We can recycle metals to conserve them.

Chemistry - Making Metal Supplies Go Further (AQA)

One of the topics covered in GCSE Science is building materials, such as metals or limestone. This is the fourth of seven quizzes on that subject and it looks specifically at our metal supplies, and making them go further through recycling.

We obtain most of our resources from the Earth's crust and these resources are limited. It is therefore important that we conserve as much as possible because when they are gone, they are gone forever. So how can we make our supplies of these resources go further? One way to conserve our resources is to recycle waste products instead of sending them to landfill sites. Some forms of recycling happen naturally, for example the carbon cycle and nitrogen cycle which allow these two important elements to be recycled.

The Earth's population is increasing faster and faster and it's important that the way we behave now does not make life difficult or impossible for future generations. This is called sustainable development and it needs to take into account the need for economic development to improve people's standards of living, but also the environment and the resources it provides for us.

Recycling is an important way of making supplies go further and in helping us achieve sustainable development. We can recycle many resources, including metals. It takes less energy to melt and remould a metal than it does to extract new metals from their ores. Aluminium is a valuable metal that melts at a relatively low temperature, making it a particularly attractive resource for recycling. However, a lot of metals that we use are mixtures of metals (alloys) and that can make them difficult to recycle.

Recycling offers many benefits but there are drawbacks too. The metal has to be collected and transported to where it is to be processed so we need to consider which metals can be recycled economically.

Which of the following is not an environmental benefit of recycling metals?
It requires less energy than extracting from an ore
It reduces the amount of landfill
It reduces the cost of the metal
Less metal ore needs to be taken from the ground
The tricky choice here is between less energy and reduces the cost. Using less energy is environmental as the energy has to be obtained either as electricity or from a fuel. Some electricity is generated in a carbon neutral way but the majority of it has an environmental cost
Why is it cheaper to recycle metals than to extract them from their ore?
It can be done closer to where the metals are thrown away
Transporting scrap metal is cheaper than transporting the ore
The people who do the recycling are paid less than people who extract metals from the ores
There are far less processes involved in recycling than in extracting metal from an ore
The other three answers could be true but the essence of recycling is that it is a lot simpler. Since they are not being extracted from an ore, there are no costs for mining the ore, transporting the ore, purifying the ore and so on
When they reach the place they are to be recycled, how is recycling of metals carried out?
Metals are added to their molten ore
Metals are taken from pieces of waste recovered from spoil heaps
Metals are reduced using carbon and moulded into ingots
Metals are melted down and reshaped
For example, one way that scrap iron is melted down and recycled is by adding it into the same vessel being used to lower the amount of carbon in the iron straight from the blast furnace
Why is extracting iron from its ore so expensive compared to recycling it?
Iron ore has to be mined
The iron ore needs to be purified
Extraction requires chemical reactions to be carried out
All of the above
And more! The ore has to be transported, often to a different country. The blast furnace is large and expensive and the iron from the blast furnace needs to be further purified
Apart from the costs associated with preparing the ore, which of the following is likely to make extracting aluminium expensive?
The cost of the staff needed to work in the factory
The cost of the electricity used during the electrolysis of the aluminium ore
The cost of the carbon required to displace the aluminium from its ore
The cost of casting the aluminium into ingots
The extraction of aluminium does not need a large number of workers so the first answer is unlikely to be correct. Carbon is not reactive enough to reduce aluminium so that one is wrong and casting ingots is very simple which just leaves the cost of electricity
Why is aluminium easy to recycle?
It is a shiny metal
It is a soft metal
It is mainly made into drinks cans
It has a relatively low melting point for a metal
It melts at 660oC which is lower than the temperature that is needed to extract it from its ore
Titanium is also an expensive metal. Only a small portion is ever recycled. Which of the following reasons is the most likely explanation?
It is usually used in small quantities to make alloys rather than using it on its own
It is only used to make small items and it is not worth it
It is a heavy metal and the cost of transporting it for recycling is too expensive
All of the above
Metals used in alloys are difficult to separate into the original metals
Which of the following environmental issues could recycling metals reduce?
Air pollution in cities
Low level atmospheric ozone
Pollution of land and rivers
Cutting down of forests
This question tests if you are aware that the extraction and processing of a metal ore creates a lot of pollution, which often ends up on land or in watercourses
Read the following information and then decide which of the four answers contains the missing words in the correct order.

Before any metals can be ________ the scrap metal has to be collected, ____________ and sorted, which all cost money. The main problem with recycling metals is ____________ the useful metal from the rest of the rubbish. In domestic recycling plants iron and steel objects can be picked out using an __________ as most other materials are non-magnetic.
transported, recycled, electromagnetism, separated
taken, melted, removing, electromagnet
recycled, transported, separating, electromagnet
recycled, stored, picking, brush
Some of the sorting of rubbish for recycling has to be done by hand
Why is the recycling of copper becoming more and more important?
The world's reserves of high grade copper ores are very limited and could be exhausted within a few human generations
Many copper manufacturers have gone out of business so not much is being made
It is a precious metal
New laws have made copper ore mining much more difficult
Copper is a vital metal to our modern standards of living. It is used in making water pipes, electrical wires, components for smartphones and many more everyday items
You can find more about this topic by visiting BBC Bitesize - Metals and alloys - AQA

Author:  Kev Woodward

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