Recycling of re-usable resources conserves raw materials, energy, and landfill space. Millions of tons of iron and steel scrap is recycled each year. Steel making, foundry industries and virtually all manufacturers that use recycled material rely on radiation-free goods and components for their new products. Recycled materials that are radioactively contaminated threaten human health and the environment while having a huge economic impact on the manufacturer. This radioactivity can expose workers and ultimately be incorporated into consumer products.
Radioactive sources can escape from regulatory control by being abandoned, lost, or stolen. Likewise, uncontrolled material contaminated with natural or man-made isotopes from industrial processes can also enter the recycling stream. Two examples of this are pipe scale from oil and gas drilling that contains naturally occurring radioactive material and material improperly released from any nuclear related industry that is contaminated with man-made radio nuclides above regulated limits.
Since scrap metal recycling is an increasingly international industry, it is important to ensure that this metal is not contaminated with radioactivity. There is always the possibility that more highly contaminated materials could be exported to other countries.