A Look at Steel’s Environmental Story
Steel is formed by combining iron with carbon and other elements to create a strong, durable, and cost-effective building material. This iron alloy has been in use since 200 BC and is still used in numerous products throughout a variety of modern industries. Because steel can be reused over and over with no degradation in metal quality, it is also the world’s most recycled form of scrap metal.
Mass Production of Steel
Although steel has been used in manufacturing for thousands of years, the mass production of steel was not developed until the mid-1850s. This earliest process of mass production, called the Bessemer Process, is still the basis for steel manufacturing today. Once steel could be mass-produced, it also became easier to recycle in large quantities, resulting in the widespread reuse of scrap metal as a significant component of newly-produced steel.
Recyclability of Steel
Steel is incredibly recyclable for many reasons. Because steel is magnetic, it is very easy to separate from other types of scrap metal. Additionally, steel does not lose any of its integrity or durability during the recycling process, meaning that recycled steel is just as strong as new steel. Due to this property, recycled steel is a large component of new steel production; up to two out of every three tons of newly-manufactured steel is comprised completely of recycled steel scrap metal.
Benefits of Recycling Steel
Steel is the most widely-recycled metal on Earth, with a current recycling rate that ranges from 70% for steel packaging to over 92% for automobile parts. Thanks to steel scrap metal recycling, the steel industry has reduced its energy consumption and the production of carbon dioxide by half when compared with these rates in the 1960s. The rates of dust production and iron ore mining have also dropped, thanks to the widespread use of steel scrap metal in new products.
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