Steel is a material with many properties and with endless applications: from large buildings or oil platforms to small kitchen utensils. In addition, it is the protagonist in the production of machinery, in automobiles, in construction and in many other sectors. And due to its great demand, the recycling of steel is encouraged, since if the entire supply came from extraction, the environmental impact would be even greater; or what is the same: harmful to the environment.

[gdlr_quote align=»center» ]Did you know that steel It is the most recycled material in the world? And the best thing is that after the recycling process you obtain the same material with the same quality. [/gdlr_quote]

At the end of the useful life of an appliance, the steel is fully recovered to manufacture more products with the same material. Interesting, right? This is what is called Circular Economy.

Specifically, in Spain, we already recycle 84,8% of steel, being the country that recycles the most steel in the European Union, behind Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany.

 

Steel, the most recycled material in the world

Steel is 100% recyclable. In fact, a new steel product, be it a can or a fork, for example, contains more than 35% recycled steel.

 

 

However, not all steels are equally easy to recycle. carbon steel and other magnetic alloys are the most recyclable, while stainless steels may not be recyclable, since they are not magnetic as they contain nickel, and this makes their reuse difficult.

Although, in the case of ferritic and martensitic stainless steel, they do have good magnetic properties, thanks to their low chromium and nickel content. It is commonly used in medium durability applications, such as sinks, washing machine drums and dishwasher interiors, cutlery, etc. And it can be recycled without damaging or degrading its properties.

 

The steel recycling process

 

Steel is recycled using a remelting method, which is divided into 5 steps:

  1. Classification: As there are steels that are not magnetic, they must be separated and classified before starting the recycling process.
  2. Packaging: After sorting the material, it is time to transport them.
  3. Shearing: With hydraulic machinery, strong pressure is applied to cut the steel into small pieces.
  4. Media separation: Ferrous metals are then separated from other materials. This is achieved by the action of magnetic drums that rotate and achieve separation by applying high-pressure air flows and electric current.
  5. Fusion: the material is melted in an oven and the level of purity it must have is decided depending on the applications that you want to give it. Next, the molten steel is placed in molds that shape it into ingots or plates. It is then rolled into sheets for the manufacture of products or for use in construction.

 

Benefits of recycling steel 

Total yield

By recycling steel there is usually no waste. The steel it is used 100%, thanks to its magnetic and induction capacity. Even products that are disposed of improperly are likely to enter the recycling process. This occurs thanks to the fact that there is equipment with electromagnets capable of extracting steel from other waste and, in this way, recycling it.

 

Lower water and energy consumption

By using recycled steel in manufacturing processes energy consumption is reduced by 70%, since it avoids the extraction and transportation of new raw materials; on the other hand, the water consumption decreases by 40%.

 

Great reuse possibilities

We already know that steel is malleable. Therefore, it has the capacity to transform into practically any element just by adapting it to the composition of what you want to manufacture.

 

Lower CO2 emissions into the atmosphere

The environmental impact of steel production is also interpreted in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. In fact, this industry causes around 5% of the world's greenhouse effect at any given time, behind the concrete industry. Did you know that in the press release from the president of UNESID, Bernardo Velázquez, he committed to assuming the climate neutrality before 2050? The goal that Spain has set is to produce steel with zero net emissions. 

 

Economic savings

In the manufacturing process, recycled steel is cheaper for manufacturers of finished and semi-finished industrial products, and this has an impact on the final price of the products and works carried out. For this reason, the highest percentage of recycled steel is shown in the industry, and, specifically, the construction industry is the one that consumes the largest volume of recycled steel.

As you can see, recycling is essential for the good conservation of nature. Whether it's steel or other waste, the important thing is that we all do our part, contributing to a better world.