The material, in its use or in its production process, respects
the human being, especially in terms of health and safety.
A sustainable material does not harm the people working
to produce it, or the people who handle it during its use,
recycling and ultimate disposal.
Stainless steel is not harmful to people during either its
production or use. A protective layer forms naturally on all
stainless steels because of the inclusion of chromium. The
passive layer protects the steel from corrosion – ensuring a
long life. As long as the correct grade of stainless is selected
for an application, the steel remains inert and harmless to the
people who handle it and the environment.
These characteristics have made stainless steel the primary
material in medical, food processing, household and catering
The emission footprints of the material, especially those related
to carbon, water and air, are minimised. Reuse and recyclability
are at high levels. The material has low maintenance costs and
a long life, both key indicators that the impact of the material
on the planet is at the lowest levels possible.
The electric arc furnace (EAF), the main process used to
make stainless steels, is extremely efficient. An EAF has a low
impact on the environment in terms of both CO2 and other
emissions. The EAF is also extremely efficient at processing
scrap stainless, ensuring that new stainless steel has an
average recycled content of more than 60%.
Stainless steels are easily recycled to produce more stainless
steels and this process can be carried on indefinitely. It is
estimated that about 80% of stainless steels are recycled at
the end of their life. As stainless steel has a high intrinsic
value, it is collected and recycled without any economic
incentives from the public purse.
The industries producing the material show long-term
sustainability and growth, provide excellent reliability and
quality for their customers, and ensure a solid and reliable
supply-chain to the end consumer.
Choosing the right stainless steel grade for an application
ensures that it will have low maintenance costs, a long life and
be easy to recycle at the end of that life. This makes stainless an
economical choice in consumer durables (such as refrigerators
and washing machines) and in capital goods applications (such
as transportation, chemical and process applications).
Stainless steels also have better mechanical properties than
most metals. Its fire and corrosion resistance make stainless
a good choice in transportation, building or public works such
as railways, subways, tunnels and bridges. These properties,
together with stainless steel’s mechanical behaviour, are of
prime importance in these applications to ensure human
beings are protected and maintenance costs are kept low.
Stainless also has an aesthetically pleasing appearance,
making it the material of choice in demanding architectural
and design projects.
Taking into account its recyclability, reuse, long life, low
maintenance and product safety, the emissions from the
production and use of stainless steels are minimal when
compared to any other alternative material. A detailed and
precise analysis of the sustainability of stainless steel makes
the choice of stainless a logical one. This might explain why,
as society and governments are becoming more conscious of
environmental and economic factors, the growth in the use of
stainless steel has been the highest of any material in the world.
Ashley G. // Editor SMC