Recycled Steel and Ferrous Scrap: Pollution and Economic Cost Benefits

Updated on March 11, 2019
GoldenRod LM profile image

John has recycled metals most of his life. He is fascinated by waste that has value. Recycling made him aware of its necessity - and worth.

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish?

As of December of 2018, evidence has been gathered showing that Chinese hot-dip galvanization of steel coils causes an increase of as much as 50% more green house gas. This steel material is used in construction. Consider that galvanizing can occur with recycled or virgin steel.

This takes into account GHG for a large building's steel galvanizing only. When consideration is given to the total amount of pollution created from Chinese steel production, the numbers rise even more.

Contrasted to North American cold rolled steel, Chinese steel in the example above (a Minnesota office building) created the equivalent of 10,000 gallons of burnt gasoline. In general, Chinese steel pollutes on average 3 times the pollution of North American steel. But of course, the Chinese steel is cheaper. When the total price of the purchase is taken into account, is it cheaper?

An incredible amount of steel comes from auto salvage yards.
An incredible amount of steel comes from auto salvage yards. | Source

Iron and Steel Recycling Facts

  • The United States discards enough iron and steel yearly to continuously supply all the auto makers in the entire nation.
  • Recycling steel saves 74% of the energy used to process virgin iron ore.
  • Steel is the only material used in construction today that can be 100% recycled and re-used. It is truly sustainable.
  • Even scrap waste from the smelting of steel is fed back into the system.
  • Because steel is magnetic, it is one of the most easily separated recyclables.
  • Virtually all manufactured steel items contain some recycled steel.
  • In the 60's the United States started using recycled steel in rebar. domestically produced rebar contains 97% recycled material. Sources vary from old cars, appliances, hot water heaters, and just about any manufactured steel object
  • Recycling one ton of steel conserves 2,500 lbs. of iron ore, 1,400 lbs. of coal, and 120 lbs. of limestone
  • On average, the United States processes enough ferrous scrap daily (read stuff composed of iron), by weight, to build 25 Eiffel Towers every day of the year.
  • St. Louis's Gateway Arch used 900 tons of stainless steel in construction.
  • The annual amount of U.S. recycled ferrous scrap weighs enough to build 900 Golden Gate Bridges.

Reused Versus Recycled Steel

It is possible to melt recycled steel and create totally new forms. The classic example is a toaster being sold to a metal scrapper and it in turn becomes a ceiling fan. There is plenty of unwanted steel for that. But reusing steel is a form of recycling, also. A very common use for fashioning new creations without the melt is in the furniture business.

One furniture business uses bikes in their contemporary designs. Bike furniture uses handlebars, frames, and rims for their creations of chairs, bar stools and love seats. Other businesses focus on steel contraptions for cutting and splicing to create new designs for those with a penchant for a specific machine. A for instance would be airplane parts for home decor.

Another example is furniture made from pipe and fittings. This type of furniture has taken off in recent years because of the extreme variety of shapes and sizes that can be formed. Look on Amazon for pipe furniture designed by Yuanshikj for many different uses. They have created shelf units, free standing and mountable, most of which can be made from recycled steel.

Even though wood and plastic are re-purposed, they are more difficult to use in a completely different form when ground or melted. This is one reason that recycled steel is a wonderful source of material for re-purposing and completely new item in form. As the world becomes more green aware, there is little doubt that steel will be used for more and more things, especially replacing some plastic uses.

Recycled Steel in Structures

The prefabrication of steel projects focuses construction costs away from the site. This eliminates site disturbance (dust, etc) at the project site. Though aluminum is often used because of its reflectivity, steel also has a high reflectance index value and can cool the area underneath significantly. Recycled steel is perfect for producing roofing materials. Parking spaces can be significantly cooled with steel roofing. Steel framing that is correctly installed can make a building very tight, contributing to less air loss and less energy consumption over the building's lifetime. Steel will not warp, responding to cold and heat much less. Recycled steel studs are also stronger than wood.

Recycled steel roofing
Recycled steel roofing | Source

Why Recycled Steel Is Not Sufficient for Domestic Security

In June of 2018, President Trump announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. He cited the need for a strong domestic metals industry to insure national security. We probably all know that materials for defense like tanks, airplanes, ships, ammunition, missiles, and more require a lot of steel.

But if the United States has so much steel to recycle, why the need for a strong domestic iron mining and steel producing industry? The argument for protective tariffs goes something like this.

If the United States were engaged in a large protracted war, not only would the furnaces for melting recycle steel all be operating, but the daily requirements for steel production would require the simultaneous mining and smelting of virgin iron ore to make the steel required for an adequate defense. In addition, the knowledge that the United States could produce its own iron for steel production would be reason to think twice about attacking.

Given the 9/11 attacks on the United States (the Pentagon), many military installation buildings need hardening. In the event of a national emergency, immediate steel deliveries will be required from the domestic steel industry. If dependent on foreign steel, these requirements cannot be guaranteed.

A currently proposed Nucor steel mill for making steel plate will take 3 years to build. We need healthy mills in operating condition to guarantee our national defense. All furnaces at large and small steel mills and smelters need to be ready.

Superior Strength Steel From Recycle

Many of the steel types used in the United States were developed over the last 20 years. There is a growing demand for thinner and stronger steel which contributes to the success of lighter applications in the modern world. These versions of steel have been developed thanks to the latest technologies.

The quest for lighter stronger materials is a universal goal for the U.S. economy. It advances the objective of lower fuel expenditure. Since 1990, greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by 37% because of improvements in the composition of steel.

The economy of the United States gobbles up 120 million tons of finished steel every year. Recycled steel of all types and in all applications is a huge contributor to the productive capacity of our country.

Material that was once a blender standing idly in your kitchen may well be part of a space capsule hurtling through space.

The Future

Recycling steel makes sense in terms of the economy, reduced pollution, energy savings and the national defense. It makes good sense to take advantage of our bounty of used steel.

Recycling Automobiles: How It's Done

Sources

Steel Recycling Institute (2018, Feb 8). Light-Weighting with Advanced High Strength Steel Produces Lower Greenhouse Gas Emissions than Lightweighting with Aluminum. Retrieved February 26, 2019 from https://www.steelsustainability.org/

Green Solutions Recycling (2015, No month). Recycling Facts. Retrieved February 27, from http://www.greensolutionsrecyclingllc.com/recycling-facts/

Whirlwind Steel Buildings and Components Whirlwind Team (2016, February 10). Sustainability: Benefits of Building with Steel, Retrieved February 20, 2019 from (https://www.whirlwindsteel.com/blog/bid/407753/sustainability-benefits-of-building-with-steel

Frane, David (2014, September 20). 12 Things You Probably Don't Know about Rebar, Retrieved February 20, 2019 from https://www.toolsofthetrade.net/power-tools/12-things-you-probably-dont-know-about-rebar_o

Dekalb Iron and Metal (2019, No Month). About Metal Recycling, Retrieved February 20, 2019 from https://www.dimcodekalb.com/page/19/about-metal-recylcing

Yoders, Jeff (2019, January 14). Newcor to Build $1.3B Steel Mill in Midwest, State Not Yet Picked, Retrieved February 21 from https://www.enr.com/articles/46206-nucor-will-build-new-steel-plate-mill-in-the-midwest-doesnt-know-which-state-yet

Iijima, Satoru (2017, May 10). Shaping the Future of the U.S. Steel Industry, Retrieved February 28, 2019 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/mitsubishiheavyindustries/2017/05/10/shaping-the-future-of-the-u-s-steel-industry/#4971f9986ced

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 John R Wilsdon

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, turbofuture.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://turbofuture.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)