Recycling scrap metal saves millions of tonnes of CO2 every year. It reduces demand for our earth’s dwindling resources and helps prevent new pollution. It’s a big deal.
Do you want to know one of the most fascinating properties of steel? Its durability and strength is unaffected by the recycling process. Unlike other major materials, such as plastic and paper, steel products can be recycled over and over again without a loss in quality. That means that new products can be made such as cars, machinery and building materials, with a fraction of the emissions, but also household items like kitchenware, pots, pans, and cutlery.
Steel recycling is a closed loop process. It begins in the furnace at the steelworks. Mine and steel materials, along with scrap are melted together to create new, high quality steel. It doesn’t matter whether it’s mining products or scrap because the quality of the resulting steel is always the same.
The material that gets left over during production, for example when ‘punching’ takes place, is collected as new scrap so that there is zero waste.
Scrap, old and new, is sourced by steel recycling companies that operate around the world. Scrap is carefully sorted and professionally processed, and after thorough quality control, is then finally ready to be transported back to the steelworks again as raw material for tomorrow’s steel production, and thus closing the loop.
In 2018, steelworks in the EU recycled 93.8 million tonnes of steel scrap this way. 19 million of these tonnes were processed in Germany alone. If manufacturers were to use raw material to produce the steel from scratch, they would likely require over 200 million tonnes to deliver the same output.
In 2018, this tonnage resulted in total greenhouse gas savings in the EU of at least 157 million tonnes of CO2, which is the equivalent of 47 million car journeys from Berlin to Beijing, and back again.
We work closely with European steel mills to make sure the recycling process is as efficient as possible. While recycling is an essential part of our approach, our first port of call is always to repurpose where possible. In the global race for Net-Zero finding new uses for used equipment and materials, such as our use of redundant oilfield tubulars in the construction industry, remains one of the most ambitious ways to reduce carbon footprint for manufactured goods already present in the circular economy. That said, not every piece of steel is reusable. That is why we’ve dedicated decades to perfecting our recycling strategies.
A benefit for us all, steel scrap is a valuable raw material for the environment, for the climate, and for the competitiveness of the European steel and stainless-steel industry. If we were to convert the avoided environmental and climate damage into money, we’re looking at savings in the billions every year. Steel scrap is an exceptionally valuable resource. Not just for us but to the whole world.
(BSV) THE Steel Scrap Association.
(Ref. Fraunhofer IMWS).