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Chemistry - Making Metal Supplies Go Further (AQA Syllabus A)

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.

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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.

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  1. Which of the following is not an environmental benefit of recycling metals?
    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
  2. Why is it cheaper to recycle metals than to extract them from their 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
  3. When they reach the place they are to be recycled, how is recycling of metals carried out?
    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
  4. Why is extracting iron from its ore so expensive compared to recycling it?
    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
  5. Apart from the costs associated with preparing the ore, which of the following is likely to make extracting aluminium expensive?
    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
  6. Why is aluminium easy to recycle?
    It melts at 660oC which is lower than the temperature that is needed to extract it from its ore
  7. Titanium is also an expensive metal. Only a small portion is ever recycled. Which of the following reasons is the most likely explanation?
    Metals used in alloys are difficult to separate into the original metals
  8. Which of the following environmental issues could recycling metals reduce?
    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
  9. 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.
    Some of the sorting of rubbish for recycling has to be done by hand
  10. Why is the recycling of copper becoming more and more important?
    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

Author: Kev Woodward

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