Steel recycling benefits the economy & the environment

February 25, 2015

Scrap metal recycling is often referred to as “above ground mining”. Instead of mining iron ore we can recycle existing items like cars, appliances and roofing iron and turn them into new steel.

This recent video from ISRI (Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries) provides an overview of the steel recycling industry.   The video highlights the benefits of ferrous metal recycling to the economy and the environment. The video focuses on the US scrap industry, but the key messages also apply to steel recycling in Australia.

What Materials are Recycled?

There are two major sources for steel recycling:

  • Goods at the end of their life. This includes cars, washing machines, fridges, farm machinery and building materials.
  • Waste materials from the production process

You can recycle old steel items by taking them to your local scrap metal yard. The scrap metal dealer will sort them and sell them on to a scrap processor. The scrap processor will shred the materials and sort them into their component types – like steel, plastic, copper and aluminium.

Industrial waste materials typically do not require as much processing because the steel is not contaminated with other materials.

Scrap steel can be recycled in one of two ways:

  • it can be used as an input to an electric arc furnace and made into new steel
  • it can be melted down in a foundry and cast into new items

Steel Recycling & the Economy

Steel recycling has many economic benefits. Making new steel from waste materials is cheaper and less capital intensive than investing in new mines and transporting the raw materials to a blast furnace. Ultimately this means you pay less to buy your new car, washing machine or building materials.

Also the steel recycling industry employs many people to collect, process and manufacture new steel from old materials.

Steel Recycling & the Environment

Steel recycling makes economic sense but it is also environmentally friendly. The process of making new steel from recyclable materials requires less than half the energy used to make steel from iron ore. And it produces less than half the greenhouse gases as well!  It also diverts material from going into landfill.

So next time you need to dispose of your old car or appliance make sure to take it to your local scrap recycling centre.  You’ll be doing your bit for the economy and the environment.