Canada recycles between 16 and 18 million tonnes of scrap metal each year.
From airplanes and cars to lamps and cutlery, metal is found in many objects used in all facets of life. Because of how common it is, recycling scrap metal helps keep it out of landfills and ultimately out of the environment.
The process of recycling scrap metal usually includes sorting it, melting it down and purifying it. The finished product comes in a variety of forms depending on its future use. This allows manufacturers to use recycled metal as if it was new. As metal can be recycled an infinite amount of times without losing its properties, there is no downside to using it. Many products make use of these re-formed materials, sending them back to the recycling plant once they have served their purpose to be made into something new once again.
Metal can also be recycled without the extensive melting and purification process. Old machinery, electronics and other objects containing metal can be taken apart and the pieces used to make stunning art creations. Scrap metal art finds its roots in “junk art”. Junk art has been around for millions of years. The concept behind this form of art is to choose an object that does not spark feelings of beauty or ugliness, and instead create “visual indifference”. Marcel Duchamp installed the first piece of junk art in 1913, but the concept didn’t fully come into its own until 1915. Other artists started creating in this style, including famous sculptor, Pablo Picasso.
The scrap metal stream of junk art has gained popularity since the mid 20th century. Anyone with access to scrap metal and a few tools can try their hand at creating this kind of art. Finding scrap metal for projects is not difficult with a little creativity. Since metal is everywhere, one needs to only look around to find possible materials. For larger projects, artists turn to old machinery such as cars and farm equipment, while smaller projects usually are made up of old electronics and pieces from larger items. Scrap metal yards become vital to artists working with this medium. The components are cut, ground, and welded into a creation. These processes may take some time to master and gain confidence in, however, artists’ early pieces can still be beautiful. Some artists have even started creating toys and furniture from recycled metal as well!
Sculptures make up the majority of scrap metal art. They range in size and can be small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, or larger than life. Carol Nasvytis of Soul Metal Studios is one local metal artist that got her start in other mediums. She decided to try her hand at metal art and draws her inspiration from nature. She creates sculptures and wall hangings, both for indoor and outdoor use.
Another local Ontario artist, Andreas Drenters, has taken his sculpting to the next level. Working with metal from a young age, Drenters draws upon his childhood for his designs. His father was a blacksmith and an inventor, so scrap metal and the tools needed to manipulate it were plentiful. He designs toys and other whimsical objects, now recognized as having cultural significance.
Metal toys are now widely available online. They range in size as well as complexity and are often handmade. DIY metal projects and instructions are also widely available and often require simple tools and easily obtainable metal items.
Furniture made from scrap metal, usually in the steampunk style, is also gaining popularity. Similarly made to sculptures, artists combine and display interesting metal parts and pieces from common items. The result is an eye-catching work of art with functionality. There are no rules when it comes to designing with scrap metal and artists have created all types of furniture from it.
Metal is found everywhere in our daily lives. Much of it is sent to the landfill where it does nothing but take up precious space. By properly recycling metal, we not only keep our landfills smaller, we also save our planet. Recycling metal multiple times does not alter its properties, allowing for infinite uses. Although it is commonly melted down, purified, and shaped into a usable form, there are many ways to recycle it without going through those processes. Finding the beauty in scrap metal has made it possible for many artists to create unique sculptures, toys and furniture, among other things. This creative use of it is not only great for the environment, the end result is stunning.
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