Tin is one of the higher valued base metals and the infrastructure to reclaim tin is well-developed with recycling rates for the metal significantly high. Tin is the 51st most abundant element in the earth’s crust at about two parts per million (ppm) compared with 63 ppm copper, 94 ppm zinc and 12 ppm lead and therefore is not easy to find.
Tin waste which is generated during the production process is referred to as ‘new scrap’ and usually remains the property of the manufacturers. For example, the side trimmings built on a coil of tinplate in a steel mill would be continually redirected back into the production process without leaving the plant. Detinning works are often performed on new tinplate scrap from tin mills and can manufacturing plants and from old scrap in the form of used tin cans.
The Recycling Input Rate (RIR) for tin in 2010 was estimated to be 31.6%. This takes into account use of both secondary refined tin metal and scrap and secondary alloys. Total use of tin in secondary materials other than refined metal in 2010 amounted to about 74,000 tonnes.
The outlook for tin use over the coming years is strong, with global electronic equipment production forecast to increase to 7.5 per cent in 2014, therefore underpinning demand for solders and copper alloys. Although recycling of tin scrap is an important part of sustainability in tin mining, supply is still expected to lag behind until the gap can be filled by new tin supply projects due to come online over the next few years, including Stellar’s Heemskirk Tin Project.
Sources: The Metal Casting, ITRI Tin Use and Recycling Survey 2011