Steel The Green Option

Stainless, Steel

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The figures by APEAL, the Association of European Producers of Steel for Packaging, indicate that in 2012, 2.7 million tonnes of steel packaging were recycled, corresponding to an average European rate of 74%. This reinforces the long-term trend for steel as the most recycled packaging material in Europe.

Steel packaging’s recycling rate has increased threefold over the last 20 years and steel remains the most recycled packaging material in Europe. Plastic, beverage cartons, aluminium and glass have rates of 35%, 39%, 68% and 70% respectively (source: APEAL).

Alexander Mohr, Secretary General of APEAL, commented: “While steel maintains its position as the most recycled packaging material in Europe, it is clear there is still some work to be done in order for the industry to hit its vision of 80% recycling rate by 2020.”

According to the Steel Recycling Institute, for the US, the overall recycling rate for steel in 2012 was 88%, with nearly 84 million tonnes of steel recycled. This included the more than 1.3 million tons of tin plate steel – the equivalent of 21 billion steel cans, which were recycled at a rate of 71%, the highest among packaging materials.

“The steel industry’s internationally-recognised energy efficiency, coupled with the recycling rate that is the highest of any material, proves our commitment to sustainability and resource conservation,” said Thomas J. Gibson, president and CEO, American Iron and steel Institute.

Steel products naturally contribute to resource conservation through their lightweight potential, durability and recyclability. Steel is 100% recyclable. It can be infinitely recycled without loss of key properties, ensuring that the resources invested in its production are not lost and can be infinitely reused. Steel recycling accounts for significant raw material and energy savings.

Due to its magnetic properties, steel is easy to separate from waste streams, enabling high recovery rates.

Recovery rates differ from recycling rates. For example, about 85% of automobiles are recovered for recycling, and nearly 100% of the steel in these recovered vehicles is recycled. More than 1,400 kg of iron ore, 740 kg of coal, and 120 kg of limestone are saved for one tonne of steel scrap made into new steel.
Table 1: Post-consumer steel product recovery rates by sector – worldsteel estimates

Sector Recovery rate 2007 (%) Recovery 2050 (%) Life cycle in years
Construction 85% 90% 40 to 70
Automotive 85% 90% 7 to 15
Machinery 90% 95% 10 to 20
Electrical and domestic appliances 50% 65% 4 to 10
Weighted global average 83% 90% N/A

 

Steel is the most recycled industrial material in the world, with over 500 Mt recycled annually, including pre- and post-consumer scrap. Over 22 billion tonnes of steel has been recycled worldwide since 1900 owing to steel’s 100% recyclability.

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Cited: World Steel

Ashley G. // Editor SMC

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