Steel is the most recycled material in the world. Each year, more steel is recycled than paper, aluminum, glass, and plastic combined. For the past 50 years, 50% of America’s steel has been produced from recycled steel. Because of steel’s ability to be recycled over and over again without loss of strength or quality, it is economically advantageous to recycle it.
Here are some other facts about recycling steel from recycle-steel.org:
- With every ton of steel recycled, 2500 pounds of iron ore, 1400 pounds of coal, and 120 pounds of limestone are conserved.
- By recycling, the steel industry is saving the same amount of energy that would be used to power 20 million homes for a year.
- Steel is North America is always produced with a minimum of 25% recycled steel.
Steel is everywhere. It’s in buildings (of course), cars, infrastructure, tools, packaging, and more. Almost everything that is manufactured either has steel in it or requires steel in order to be created. Because of this abundance of steel, it is vitally important that unusable steel is melted down and made into something useful.
Your steel building wasn’t always a building. Before it was built it might have been one (or all) of the following products:
The abundant recycling of steel has caused the automobile recycling rate to rise to 92.5%, according to steel.org. The majority of Americans own and use cars so it’s important that they are put to good use long after they have stopped running. Even though the car is nearly worthless once it has made it to the junkyard, the steel frame and parts will not lose their value.
In fact, 60% of an automobile is made of recyclable steel. The steel parts will be salvaged and turned into a new steel product, possibly steel for a building. Automobiles are the number one source of recycled steel with 18 million tons of usable steel salvaged each year.
Packaging and containers
Steel containers come in the form of small cans for food all the way up to gigantic shipping containers. In between, steel containers are used to package products such as paint, aerosols, gasoline, and more. With the wide variety of uses, there are bound to be millions upon millions of tons of steel containers that need to be recycled. Luckily steel containers can be recycled into other steel products including buildings materials. Large shipping containers can even be turned into modular homes and buildings quickly. 72% of steel packaging is recycled, according to steel.org.
Other steel structures or infrastructure
Steel can be found in old buildings, train tracks, and bridges. Once these structures have outlived their use, the steel can be salvaged and turned into something new. Commercial buildings such as skyscrapers, warehouses, and sheds are a valuable source of steel for recycling.
Almost all home appliances such as refrigerators, stoves, and washing machines contain enough steel to be recycled. The steel used in home appliances is recycled at a rate of 90% so instead of ending up in a landfill your old clothes dryer could turn into a steel building.
When you build a brand new steel building, the frame, the roof, the outer panels, and any other steel part could have once been a car, a shipping container, a bridge, and a plethora of other steel products.