The Difference Between Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metals

One of the most important concepts to understand in the scrap metal industry is the difference between ferrous and non-ferrous metals.

In this article, we discuss some of the easiest ways to identify the difference between ferrous and non-ferrous metals and ensure that you pick the right metal for your next big project.

Properties of Ferrous and non-ferrous metals

On a chemical level, the main difference is that ferrous metals contain iron, while non-ferrous metals do not. Ferrous metals are also magnetic. They are more vulnerable to rust and corrosion when exposed to the elements (except for wrought iron, which contains so much iron that it resists oxidisation altogether). There is also a big difference in weight: non-ferrous metals, like aluminium, copper and brass, are much lighter than ferrous metals, like carbon steel, cast iron and wrought iron.


Due to their strength and weight, ferrous metals are most commonly used for things like bridges, skyscrapers, shipping containers, railways, large pipes, tunnels, and cars. Their magnetic properties are also useful in the manufacturing of electrical appliances like refrigerators.

Non-ferrous metals are most commonly used for things that require a lighter weight. For example, aircraft construction, canning and bottle top production. Their higher conductivity and malleability also enables them to be used for things like electrical cables, power lines, television sets, and radios. Precious non-ferrous metals, like gold and silver, are also an essential part of the jewellery industry.


Non-ferrous metals are often more expensive because they are harder to find. For example, lead, copper and brass are relatively scarce and have a higher value for metal recyclers.


In the recycling yard, most metals are divided into ferrous/non-ferrous categories. Non-ferrous metals can be recycled over and over again. This is because they do not degrade or lose any chemical properties in the recycling process. Recycling scrap metal reduces greenhouse gas emissions, lessens landfill, protects the environment, and saves energy on natural resource extraction.



Interested in disposing of your old metals in a way that is good for the planet and your pocket? Contact MetalBiz today to find out more!