Steel is very sustainable because once it is made, it can be used forever. Steel can be recycled an infinite amount of times and be used with NO downgrading in quality. 

The non-renewable resources used to make steel, like minerals and fossil fuels, are not wasted because the steel will be used forever.

Is steel environmentally friendly?

Yes, because once steel is produced, it’s lifecycle is potentially endless. As long as it is recovered after each product’s life cycle, it is a permanent resource in society.

Steel is 100% recyclable and is easily recovered by magnetic separation.

There are two main sources of recycled steel, also called steel scrap:

  1. Pre-consumer scrap: excess material from steel production downstream manufacturing
    1. 100% of scrap from steel production and downstream processing is collected and recycled directly into steel production
  2. Post-consumer scrap: steel at the end of a product’s life
    1. Post-consumer scrap has to be collected and prepared (for example by shredding and baling). Because of the high value of steel scrap, there are also economic incentives that help to maintain high recycling levels

Steel is the most recycled industrial material in the world, with over 500 metric tonnes recycled annually, including pre- and post-consumer scrap.

Is steel sustainable in construction?

Yes, it is. Steel is amongst some of the materials that are certified under the Green Buildings Rating System. Such as International Green Construction Code (IgCC) and USGBC’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) just to name a couple of sustainable certifications steel possesses.

Furthermore,

Steelmakers around the world are increasingly offering intelligent steel construction solutions that enable energy-efficient and low-carbon-neutral buildings. These solutions are highly material efficient and recyclable. They reduce the environmental impacts over the structures’ life cycle and help to extend their life span through design for disassembly and reuse. These steel solutions not only improve the environmental performance of buildings, they also provide other benefits such as affordability and faster, safer and less noisy construction.

What is the most sustainable metal?

Arguably, steel is the most sustainable metal. This is because:

  • Steel is the most recycled material in the world
  • Steel is not consumed because once made, it will be used again and again
  • Steel is the only truly cradle-to-cradle recycled material

life cycle of steel

Is steel renewable?

Steel is NOT a renewable resource. A nonrenewable resource cannot be naturally replaced. Typically, nonrenewable resources are found in the ground, such as rocks, fossil fuels and minerals. Once they are depleted, they are gone forever. Steel is made from these fossil fuels and minerals.

 

 

steel inforgraphic

To sum up, steel is a sustainable metal, as long as it is recycled and there are facilities set up to properly recycle it. Like so many other materials, sustainability is only as good as the recycling program used.

Steel is one of the most eco-friendly materials because:

  1. Due to its strength, you don’t need a lot to do the job
  2. It’s endlessly recyclable – some steel mills only use scrap to produce new steel
  3. There’s relatively little energy used to produce it
  4. The waste it produces is reusable
  5. It’s not toxic to humans or the environment

If this topic interests you, check out my extensive article on food grade stainless steel here.

Are there other topics like this you would like me to explore? Let me know in the comments below.

Cheers, and have an awesome day!

 

2 Comments

  1. riss

    Burning natural resources (coal) is the part that makes steel sustainable. Yes, after it’s burned to produce steel it will be utilized for generations but if the steel industry continues to burn natural resources that are meant to remain beneath Earth’s surface, the released carbon will become trapped in Earth’s atmosphere. The Earth is already over heating and causing a decline in biodiversity making it virtually impossible for Earth to maintain ecological balance. The organisms that consume and clean carbon cannot keep up with industry emissions. So yes, we can re-use steel for generations but the Earth will not be here to use it on.

    Reply
    • Kathy

      Thanks for your comment. I guess there are always trade-offs to be had.

      Reply

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