A global move to sustainability has meant that industries are embracing sustainable practice wherever possible, and the steel industry is no exception.
In this article, we take a look at how sustainable a material steel really is and what the steel industry can do to promote this sustainability.
How steel is sustainable
Steel is actually considered one of the most sustainable materials in the world – this is because once it’s created, it’s infinitely recyclable. This means that there is no quality degradation no matter how many times it’s reused, unlike consumable materials like wood, minerals and fossil fuels.
With this in mind, it’s often up to organisations in the steel industry to recover and recycle existing steel wherever possible, rather than opt to exclusively create new steel.
Where does this recycled steel come from?
Generally, there are two ways that steel can be recycled: pre-consumer scrap and post-consumer scrap.
Pre-consumer scrap relates to reuse of all of the excess material from steel production that results from downstream manufacturing, while post-consumer scrap reflects steel as a ready-made product. In the case of post-consumer steel scrap, the metal is prepared through process that can include shredding and baling.
Investment in efficiency
In addition to the emphasis on recycling (best represented through financial incentives around the world), steelmakers are constantly developing new efficient ways to produce and recycle scrap.
This means that construction projects that incorporate steel are becoming more and more energy-efficient and carbon-neutral. These factors work to minimise the environmental impact of new buildings by preparing them for disassembly and reuse from the get-go which allows for more efficient recycling during every step of the journey.
Steel sustainability often hinges on manufacturers
Although we’ve demonstrated that steel can be highly recyclable, it is often up to the manufacturers themselves to implement sustainable processes. This can often require that facilities be specially fitted out to cater to the different requirements of recycled metal. Additionally, not all of these facilities will be as efficient as one another due to the variety of recycling processes implement.
Steel sustainability summary
While steel can be recycled infinitely due to it not being a non-renewable resource, the sustainability of this material relies on the practices of the manufacturers in the steel industry. With the right approach to recycling and efficient, steel is perhaps the most sustainable material available today.