What’s Your Steel Made of?
Environmental sustainability is a huge focus for all industries these days. Renewed focus on the impact humanity has on the environment has driven us to examine the way we consume energy and natural resources. However, you might be surprised to learn just exactly how environmentally friendly steel is as a material.
Steel is all around us, whether it’s in our cars, buildings, tools, or packaging. However, it’s nearly guaranteed that those steel goods have held many past shapes, forms, and purposes. With a recycling rate of near 90%, steel is the most recycled product.
Steel is not only good for the environment, but it’s also good for the economy. Steel recycling helps cut costs during the production phase but also reduces the number of raw resources we would otherwise have to collect to create the steel goods we require. Steel buildings themselves may contain recycled contents from a variety of sources – let’s examine what sort of common items whose re-use may have a hand.
Automobiles aren’t necessarily the most environmentally friendly products, but the majority of their structures are made from steel. Steel structure and parts keep their material value long after the car itself has been deemed worthless. This has led cars and trucks to become the most recycled product in the United States.
While other parts of the car are fit for recycling, 60% or more of an automobile is made entirely from recoverable steel. With nearly 100% of all cars making it to the recycling yard at the end of their lifespans, automobile steel constitutes the largest source of steel recycling.
Steel is a choice material for operating parts – its durability and toughness help elongate the average appliance’s lifespan to around 15 years!
With a typical recycling rate of around 90%, steel helps keep your unwanted appliances in the circle of use and out of the landfill. Innovation and technological advancement serve to increase the energy efficiency of an appliance during use, while recycling ensures that we reduce resource and energy consumption to produce new machines.
Packing and Containers
While automotive and appliance steel help get us to our destination and finish the tasks at hand, steel is also widely used to package the goods that we use daily. Food, aerosol products, and paint are all commonly packaged and stored in steel containers. Steel packaging serves a variety of purposes: keeping your green beans preserved and safe to eat, containing pressurized aerosols, and even to move large quantities of goods throughout the world in massive steel shipping containers.
The many uses of steel containers are as impressive as the quantity of material able to be recovered from them. The millions of steel barrels used to transport materials that are vital to the world economy, such as crude oil and other industrial materials are viable well after their contents have been used. Large steel components shipping containers can also be recycled and have even been used to make impromptu steel and modular buildings without any intensive reformation!
Other Steel Structures
The average house requires the equivalent of an acre’s worth of trees during construction. This investment of 40 to 50 trees worth of natural material often cannot be recycled or recovered. The use of wood materials in construction yields to greater scrap material production and depletion of our national forests. This is why steel has become increasingly common in residential house framing. Since steel has the best weight to strength ratio of any construction material, less steel can be used to accomplish the same job – about six automobiles worth per home.
The Foundation of Many Structures
Outside of the home, substantial amounts of steel can be found in structures such as bridges, train tracks, monuments, commercial buildings and steel components in silos, tanks, etc. In commercial structures, steel is commonly used in support and roofing materials. Skyscrapers, warehouses, and even famous landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge all contain steel that can be repurposed and could eventually take shape as your brand new metal building!
Source: General Steel Building.