WHAT IS TIN?
Tin is soft, silver-blue metal derived from the mineral cassiterite. It is a base metal that is commonly blended with other metals to create alloys. Common tin alloys include bronze and pewter. Tin is also used to make solder and glass.
Tin is fairly scarce in the Earth’s crust compared to other metals. Very little of it is found in the United States. China and Indonesia are the world’s largest producers of primary (non-recycled) tin.
HOW IS TIN MADE?
Tin goes through a two-stage process to become a usable metal. First it is smelted from its source minerals at temperatures up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. The result is a low-purity material that is then refined by boiling, liquation, or electrolysis. The other byproduct of tin smelting is carbon dioxide.
WHAT IS TIN USED IN?
Because it is soft and has a low melting point, tin is well suited to cold-working techniques, such as extrusion and rolling. It also bonds firmly with iron, steel, and copper, making it a popular choice as a coating material to prevent corrosion.
Tin was used as early as 5,000 years ago to make bronze, a copper alloy. Bronze was the dominant material for tools and weapons for hundreds of years. Another tin alloy, pewter, was a common material for cookware; however, the other ingredient of pewter is lead, a toxic metal with serious health implications. These days, pewter is made instead with tin, antimony, and cobalt.
Tin and lead are alloyed to create solder, which is used as a bonding material, most often in electronics. Other applications of tin and tin alloys include bearings, auto and aerospace parts, and dental fillings.
ARE TIN AND ALUMINUM THE SAME THING?
No. Tin and aluminum are two different elements on the periodic table, with different properties. However, many common items that are made out of aluminum today were once made of tin, such as food cans and foil. Even the original “tin” cans were tin-plated steel. The old vocabulary has stuck around – maybe because aluminum doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue!
IS SCRAP TIN VALUABLE?
Items made with tin can be recycled as scrap. However, you probably won’t see them labeled as tin on your receipt, because tin and tin alloys are most commonly bonded to other metals with more value. Therefore, you may see tin-bearing items called light iron or steel at the scrap yard. These ferrous metal grades are weighed by the ton, not by the pound, so you need to bring in quite a lot of it at once to come out with much money.
Why should i recycle tin?
Smelting tin not only consumes a lot of energy, but produces carbon dioxide as a byproduct. It is in the environment’s interest to limit carbon dioxide emissions, so recycling existing tin is one way to reduce the need for smelting. Virtually all metal, including tin, can be recycled over and over again without losing the properties that make it valuable and useful.