What is steel?
Steel is an alloy material that is made up of two main components: iron and recycled steel.
Once steel is produced, it becomes a permanent resource with a potentially endless life cycle. Its unique combination of strength, recyclability, availability, and affordability makes steel one of the most versatile materials used today.
Steel exists all around us and is essential to modern society. We rely on it for our housing, transportation, food and water supply, energy production, and healthcare. According to the World Steel Association, “nearly everything around us is either made of steel or manufactured by equipment made of steel.”
Steel is an essential component in the production of automobiles and other transportation vehicles, electrical equipment, domestic appliances, buildings and infrastructure such as rails, roads and bridges.
The structure of The Confederation Bridge, a 12.9 km bridge that connects mainland Canada with Prince Edward Island, is made from steel.
Steel is an extremely economical metal to recycle because of its magnetic properties and because it doesn’t lose any of its original properties, no matter how many times it is recycled. Every year, more steel by weight is recycled in North America than paper, plastic, aluminum and glass combined.
Steel as a sustainable resource
Steel is one of the most sustainable construction materials. Its strength and durability coupled with its ability to be recycled in perpetuity without losing its original qualities make it ideal for long-term sustainable development in the construction sector.
Most other building materials can only be recycled into lower quality products, known as down-cycling. This makes steel the first and only true cradle-to-cradle building material.
Steel is also the main material used in delivering various renewable energy sources, including solar, tidal, geothermal, and wind.
- According to the Canadian Steel Producers Association, steel producers in Canada recycle nearly 7 million tonnes of steel annually.
- The global steel industry has reduced the amount of energy consumed to produce one tonne of steel by 61% in the last 50 years.
- In 2017, nearly 97% of steel by-products have been recovered and re-used.
- Over the course of 20 years, a wind turbine can deliver 80 times more energy than was used in its production and maintenance.
- Through recycling, the steel industry can save the same amount of energy it takes to power 20 million homes for one year.
Since steel is 100% recyclable, its life cycle is potentially endless. This makes it a permanent resource for society – one that can minimize the environmental impacts that come with the mining and extraction of new resources. However, in order for steel to operate at its full sustainable ability, it must be recovered at the end of each product life cycle.
Recycling is especially important when it comes to steel and supporting a green economy because it conserves valuable resources and prevents this infinitely useful material from ending up in landfill sites as waste.
What can you do?
If you have a steel product that has reached the end of its life cycle, it’s up to you to ensure it is recycled and recovered for future uses.
Not sure if your product can be recycled? Contact us for information!