Is Bronze biodegradable? (5 disposal options for bronze) 

This article will explain the biodegradability aspect of bronze. Other covered aspects will include: 

  • Is bronze natural?
  • Can you recycle bronze?
  • What are the reuses of bronze?
  • Are there any (more) green alternatives to bronze?
  • Can bronze be regarded as a sustainable architectural material?
  • What are the disposal practices for bronze?
  • FAQs

Is Bronze biodegradable?

Bronze, like other metals, is non-biodegradable. However, bronze can be recycled many times which may be used as an effective mitigation approach against the non-biodegradability of bronze. 

Bronze is regarded as an eco-friendly and sustainable architectural material but its applications expand to other aspects as well. 

As regards the disposal options, we have some pathways but all of them will lead to environmental stress. Therefore, it is recommended to not discard bronze but rather recycle it because recycling will lead to delays in the non-biodegradable effects of bronze. 

Is bronze natural or non-natural?

Bronze is a metal alloy consisting of tin and copper and it is non-biodegradable. As microorganisms in landfills do not consume metal components in their nutrition. 

Bronze is a historical metal which has been used in history for statues and other structural purposes. It has been used for interior architectural purposes. In recent years, bronze has been replaced by other metals. 

Bronze is an alloy which is made up of a combination of other metals mainly consisting of at least one metal. Commonly, bronze is composed of 12 percent to 12.5 percent tin. 

Other metals can also be included such as aluminium, zinc, and nickel. Non-metals can also be part of this such as phosphorus, and other forms of metalloids such as arsenic and silicon can also be included in bronze formation. 

These additions increase the durability, strength and machinability of bronze as compared to only copper-based bronze. Bronze is non-biodegradable and it remains in the environment for over 100 years until it gets corrosive. 

The metal-based materials are not biodegradable, they get corrosive in the environment under high temperatures, oxygen, sunlight and other contributing factors. 

Can you recycle bronze?

Bronze can be recycled efficiently due to its relative significant value and simplicity. As bronze is made up of copper, it imposes several environmental benefits in the recycling process. 

According to the metal recycling factsheet, 44% of copper demand comes from recycled sources. It has been reported that 90% of copper comes from civil infrastructure which is recycled. Metals can be recycled. 

Recycling metals reduces the greenhouse gas effect on the environment, as it reduces the demand for mining which requires fossil fuels. It also reduces the production of carbon dioxide. Recycling of metals including bronze, steel, and copper reduces 65% of energy and raw materials impact which is required for production.

Bronze was not only recycled in this age, but it used to be melted and recycled in ancient times during the bronze age. Bronze can be recycled from many sources such as bronze fittings, old bronze tape, ship fittings, sculpture pieces, old piping and scrap bronze from musical instruments, all types of bronze from these products can be recycled. 

Due to the different properties of bronze, it is not only used in architectural purposes but also for domestic and industrial purposes where it shows long-lasting results in products and can be easily recycled. Bronze is mostly used for recycling.

One thing that is worth mentioning here is that brass is a similar metal to bronze. One exceptional quality of brass is that it can be recycled as many times as required. 

The case of bronze is no different. It can also be recycled multiple times and this is a big advantage because if bronze is incessantly and consciously recycled, its environmental impacts will be reduced. 

What are the reuses of bronze and is it safe?

Bronze can be reused for the same purpose for which it has been wiped out due to corrosiveness. Reuse of bronze is safe as it goes melting and is the same procedure as in manufacturing. 

In fact, in Europe and other developed countries, bronze is mostly used by recycling and reusing instead of manufacturing metal from raw materials. 

The processing of recycling is focused on the reuse of metal. Recycling of metal such as bronze includes various procedures such as pyrolysis, incineration and for disposal, encapsulation and sanitary landfills have been used. 

Bronze reuse is safe as it does not consume an intensive amount of energy nor does it release greenhouse gases into the environment. It does not deplete the proportion of natural resources in the environment and prevents hazardous effluent from manufacturing units.

The reuse of bronze is not only common during this age, but it was also common in the bronze age which showed the sustainability of the metal. As bronze is 80 percent consisted of copper, so it has reuse and recyclable properties In many forms. 

Are there any (more) green alternatives to bronze?

Bronze itself is a green approach for many purposes but it can have alternatives. At many levels, bronze is coated differently to maintain its life. Many manufacturers have now moved to wood coating or use wood as an alternative.

But wood has environmental impacts as its quality reduces when it is reused, and it has negative impacts as it causes deforestation. 

Other options include using sustainable metals such as stainless steel, mild steel, recycled metal including aluminium and scrap metals. Brass is also a sustainable option to approach instead of using bronze. 

Such metals are green alternatives as they can be recycled and reused for a long time, these metals do not require the occasional use of raw materials. 

Green alternatives for metals must have strength, hardness, low density, moisture resistance, bearing surface, bend and cut properties. Other than sustainable coatings, metals can be alternated under such properties. 

Some manufacturers have recommended wood for interior and architecture instead of brass and copper, but this approach is not environmentally friendly as wood consumption has negative impacts on the environment. 

Steel has also been used for industrial purposes instead of bronze, as steel is highly efficient, durable and composed of high strength. 

Can bronze be regarded as a sustainable architectural material?

The focus today by the producers and consumers is to act as such to be in line with a green and sustainable future. This philosophy is the cornerstone of sustainability. 

It has resulted in the concept of sustainable architecture because people are becoming more inclined toward greener solutions. 

A good example of it can be how conventional plastics are replaced by bio-based, biodegradable plastics that rely on natural sources rather than non-natural sources. 

Bronze has been used for many centuries. It is regarded as a sustainable material because not only it competes and actually aces against its counterparts such as steel, it is regarded as eco-friendly because of its recycling aspect, long-lasting nature and non-toxic. 

The use of bronze is gaining momentum because of these factors and therefore, it will be right to call it a burgeoning sustainable architectural material. 

What are disposal practices for bronze? (5 options) 

Bronze is a metal and it has the same disposal methods as other metals.  As mentioned above, disposal methods include 

  • Incineration, 
  • Pyrolysis, 
  • Encapsulation,
  • Sanitary landfills, 
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Initiative

Incineration is mainly performed on hazardous materials, medical materials, and solid forms. Incineration decreases the volume of waste by 90 percent. However, since it involves the burning or combustion of waste, there is a release of harmful gases when bronze is incinerated. 

Sanitary landfills have concrete walls which prevent the leaking of hazardous chemical bronze coating from leaking out into water streams. As compared to normal landfills, sanitary landfills are used for the disposal of metals and hazardous substances. 

Some initiatives have been taken in developed countries which use waste treatment plants to dispose of metals or to convert them into virgin form to reuse. Such treatment facilities have reduced negative impacts on the environment. 

Conclusion

It is concluded that bronze, like other metals, is non-biodegradable. However, bronze can be recycled many times which may be used as an effective mitigation approach against the non-biodegradability of bronze. 

Bronze is regarded as an eco-friendly and sustainable architectural material but its applications expand to other aspects as well. 

As regards the disposal options, we have some pathways but all of them will lead to environmental stress. Therefore, it is recommended to not discard bronze but rather recycle it because recycling will lead to delays in the non-biodegradable effects of bronze. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is Bronze biodegradable?

What is the difference between copper and bronze?

Copper is a pure metal whereas bronze is a copper alloy. This means that other metals are also used in combination to achieve the required functional value of bronze. 

Can bronze also be recycled infinitely?

Like other metals, bronze can also be recycled as many times as required. However, for this to happen, there has to be a green mindset among the users and producers. 

References 

  • Dubreuil, A., Young, S. B., Atherton, J., & Gloria, T. P. (2010). Metals recycling maps and allocation procedures in life cycle assessment. The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 15(6), 621-634.
  • Scott, D. A. (2002). Copper and bronze in art: corrosion, colourants, conservation. Getty publications.
  • Kristiansen, K., & Larsson, T. B. (2005). The rise of Bronze Age society: travels, transmissions and transformations. Cambridge University Press.

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