Collateral: Steel Packaging Sustainability

The SteelPackagingSustainability (PDF) brochure is a piece I wrote to highlight the sustainable advantages of packaging foods in steel vs. competing materials. The layout was done with an external vendor.

Obsolete Scrap Chapter for Book

A scrap chapter I wrote to augment an overall recycling chapter of a book:

3.2 Obsolete Scrap

Obsolete scrap—frequently referred to as post-consumer scrap—is any steel item recovered after reaching the end of its useful life.

Examples include steel recovered through the shredding of used cars and appliances, cans collected through curbside pickup or recycling centers, and structural beams or plates recovered from the construction or demolition of buildings and bridges.

Obsolete scrap is an extremely diverse category and presents a wide variety of challenges to recycling.

3.2.1 Municipal Waste Stream

The municipal solid waste stream contains a large amount of valuable steel scrap that is currently accepted in more than 90 percent of curbside and drop-off recycling programs. The vast majority of this scrap is from steel packaging.

Steel cans that are collected through curbside and drop off programs are transferred to Material Recovery Facilities where they are easily, magnetically separated from other materials. Steel from municipal waste can also be sourced from waste-to-energy facilities, where mixed wastes are incinerated as a source of energy, and the remaining, ferrous scrap can be magnetically separated for recycling.

Other sources of steel scrap, such as empty, steel aerosol cans, are being accepted in an increasing number of recycling programs. While, other, more challenged sources of steel scrap, such as box springs, electronics and furniture are still working to advance efficient solutions.

3.2.2 Appliances

Each year, approximately 90 percent of out-of-service appliances are recycled for their iron and steel content. This is due to the fact that appliances are simply too large to be landfilled. As a result, most appliances are collected by retailers as new appliances are delivered or by local, independent scrap haulers that collect ferrous materials for profit. According to the Association of home Appliance Manufacturers the average appliance contains about 100 pounds of recyclable steel. Scrap processors collect refrigerants and remove any switches required by law, then appliances are fed into large shredders, which tear appliances into fist-sized chunks of material, where the ferrous portions are magnetically separated for recycling.

3.2.3 Automotive

More than 14 million tons of shredded steel are recovered in a typical year from shredded automobiles. Because they are nearly 60 percent steel, cars have become the most recycled product in the world.

Nearly 100 percent of out-of-service automobiles are sold to scrap processors for recycling. These scrap processors, drain the fluids, catalog and separate any reusable parts for resale, and then crush the remaining auto hulk to be fed into a shredder.

Like appliances, automobile hulks are fed into shredders, where in less than 45 seconds, they are reduced into fist-sized chunks of material. Ferrous material is again easily separated by magnets from the other materials.

3.2.4 Containers

Since 1988, when the North American steel industry first focused efforts on growing steel can recycling, the recycling rate for packaging has grown from 15 percent to now more than 70 percent of steel packaging recycled each year.

Steel packaging is now routinely recycled from residential, restaurants and institutional establishments alike. Cans, collected for recycling, are shipped along with other recyclables to a material recovery facility (MRF). At the MRF, the steel cans are magnetically separated from the other recyclables, crushed into large bales, and then shipped to steel mills or foundries for recycling.

3.2.5 Construction and Demolition Scrap

Construction is the largest, general market for steel. Likewise, at the end-of-life these steel structures become the largest general source of steel scrap. The construction market embraces a wide variety of applications from light-gauge framing and reinforcement up to large skyscrapers, bridges and other infrastructure, including oil rigs, pipelines, culverts and water transmission. Demolition contractors well understand the economics of recycling and actively build the recycling of steel scrap into each project. As a result, more than 95 percent of large, structural steel is captured for recycling each year. Some structural, such as that in underground pilings can be difficult to recover for recycling.

Rebar is a common example of reinforcement steel and is integral to concrete flooring and providing structural integrity to other supporting materials.

The recycling of these support materials is reliant upon the recycling of the surrounding material. Steel rebar is collected for recycling as concrete is chipped or processed for recycling. As a result, the recycling rate for support steel is typically around 70 percent.

3.2.6 Opportunities for Growth

Even while steel is the most recycled material in the world, there is still opportunity to collect even more scrap. Tremendous developments have taken place in scrap processing that utilize computerized separation technology, providing a wide variety of options.

Parallel with these advancements, work continues to attract traditionally “challenged” sources of steel scrap—steel scrap that is trapped, or attached, to other materials or was difficult for traditional materials.

Examples of sources of steel scrap that are becoming increasingly available to the steel industry are steel belts and wires from recycled tires, mattress springs, used oil filters from homes and shops, spring and mechanical assemblies from furniture among others. As these sources of steel scrap are becoming efficiently separated and the grades of steel are sorted appropriately, these sources will also be readily recycled by industry steel furnaces.

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries annually publishes a scrap circular which details the types of steel that are permitted within each type of scrap bale.

A Response to Recycling Study

A Response from the Steel Recycling Institute to
“Understanding Steel Recovery and Recycling Rates & Limitations to Recycling”
Published by Dovetail Partners. Inc. 23 March 2015

By: Jim Woods Sr. Director of Sustainability Communications for the American Iron and Steel Institute

Executive Summary:
For nearly as long as the industry has been making steel, it has also been recycling steel. Steel recycling is sustainability in its most simple form. Environmentally, the recycling of steel scrap offsets the need for valued raw materials. Socially, the recycling of steel scrap keeps an important resource out of our nation’s landfills and provides a detailed roadmap for end-of-life scenarios. Economically, steel scrap offsets the costs associated with energy consumption and procurement of natural resources. Therefore, it is across-the-board, good business to recycle steel.

To accurately, and credibly, quantify the rates of steel scrap consumption, each year, the Steel Recycling Institute (SRI) works with mills, associations, industry customers and manufacturers to publish annual steel recycling rates.

Dovetail Partners (Dovetail) have published a paper, “Understanding Steel Recovery and Recycling Rates & Limitations to Recycling” on 21 March 2015. This paper was intended to identify inconsistencies in reporting of recycling rates and identify opportunities for increasing diversion of steel scrap to steel mills.

SRI shares Dovetail’s expressed vision of maximizing the volume of steel scrap and acknowledges the diversity of calculations by associations and reporting entities based on the scope of their individual functions. However, the paper, published by Dovetail, seems to indicate intent to inflate recycling rates through specific omissions or other practice. This response will clarify misunderstandings that have been communicated through the Dovetail paper.

Defining Recycling:

By Dovetail’s own explanation, “recycling reduces the need for resource extraction, typically requires far less energy consumption than when processing virgin raw materials, and results in lower emissions and other environmental impacts.”

The SRI fully embraces this as the goal and outcome of recycling steel scrap and therefore defines its recycling accomplishments through the conversion of steel scrap into new steel, which reduces the need for resource extraction, requires less energy consumption and results in lower emissions.

Calculations of recycling rates for other materials may include initial diversion rates from waste streams to material recovery facilities. However, certain materials have thresholds for contamination which result in the unfortunate landfill of products that do not meet this threshold. With steel, however, items, including labels, are quickly melted away, becoming fuel to the recycling process. And, while home (runaround) scrap, internal to mills, and new (prompt) scrap are of specific, known chemical composition, Dovetail is correct in identifying the diversity of products and composition that come in as old (obsolete) steel scrap.

Predictable Chemistry of Old (Obsolete) Steel Scrap:

Fortunately, in the case of old (obsolete) scrap, the steel industry has a very long, and close working relationship, with scrap processors. The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries produces a highly detailed Scrap Circular Specifications which specifies the grades, and types, of steel scrap that can be included in specific types of bales—greatly increasing the efficiency and predictable chemistry of bales to be consumed by the steel industry in lieu of virgin resources.

Therefore, while dirt and other non-ferrous elements may end up as part of scrap bales, these predicted tolerances are accounted for in the steel recycling process and have only a small, finite impact on the efficiency of the recycling of old (obsolete) steel scrap. And, many of these impurities quickly become slag, which as a co-product of the steel making process, is also recycled into a coveted ingredient for the making of concrete. In fact, up to 96 percent of steel making byproducts, including water, slag, gasses and heat are all recycled during the steelmaking process.

Recycled Content:

As the Dovetail paper accurately portrays, there is a distinction between recycled content and the recycling rates. Inherently, recycled content refers to the ratio of steel scrap used to the volume of virgin material. The tolerances for recycled content are defined through the specifications for the specific grades of steel being produces. And, as indicated in the paper, the tolerance for recycled content is inherent to the steelmaking process used to produce the steel. There are two main processes for steelmaking used in the United States—the Basic Oxygen Furnace (BOF) and the Electric Arc Furnace (EAF).

The BOF process uses 20 to 35 percent recycled content to make new. It produces products—such as automotive fenders, encasements of refrigerators, and packaging like soup cans, five-gallon pails, and 55-gallon drums.

The EAF process uses more than 80 percent recycled content to make new. It produces products—such as structural beams, steel plates, and reinforcement bars.

Understanding the differences in the grades of steel produced by these processes, it is important to understand that these are complimentary processes, since steel has an open loop among steel products. Therefore, cans are able to be recycled into cars or construction materials, and vice versa. And, as recycling rates indicate, both processes are needed to ensure continued balance between production of steel and scrap availability.

Recycling Rates:

Steel recycling rates, which are at the center of the discussion in the Dovetail paper are complex calculations for the overall recycling of steel scrap, as well as collaborative, market-based calculations for core steel markets, including packaging, automobiles and construction materials.

At their most basic, steel recycling rates calculate steel scrap consumed in lieu of natural resources for steelmaking against new steel entering the market—based on a market-neutral calculation. Like the steel recycling process itself, steel markets are mature, relatively stable markets. And, by the nature of steel, and the myriad product profile steel represents, steel’s time in the marketplace is long and varied.

While a predicted “lifetime” of automobiles and appliances may be around a decade, and construction products can be seen as five decades. The reality is, through reuse of car doors and other parts, the existence of ‘classic cars’, the long-standing nature of iconic structures, like the Golden Gate Bridge or the Empire State Building, steel products have a long, varied life span.

In addition, as the Dovetail paper cites, in the Damath 2010 study there is more than one billion tons of steel scrap “in inventory.” This means, not only are there products where actual lifetime well exceeds typical projections, but there is also a significant inventory of steel scrap at our nation’s more than 2,000 scrap processors that is waiting for conditions to be processed and sold to steel companies. Vast inventories of cars and appliances sit, waiting to have their reusable parts re-sold and put back into the market for an extended lifetime.

While, as the Dovetail paper acknowledges, there are discarded products, or un-obtainable sources of steel scrap—such as underground piping that simply cannot be recycled due to a barrier of some sort, taking a market-neutral approach in calculating steel recycling rates accounts for both scrap “in inventory” and ultimately unobtainable steel scrap.

With established, mature markets, and the understanding of the “scrap in inventory” material flow, a market neutral approach is justified and credible.  A market-neutral approach examines the flow of grades of steel being produced and entering the market vs. the grades of steel scrap that are being consumed from that market. This market-neutral approach, comparing the scrap consumed for steelmaking against new steel production, therefore accounts for scrap in inventory and unobtainable steel scrap.

The American Iron and Steel Institute Annual (AISI) Statistical Report and member Energy Survey are primary data sources for the calculation of steel recycling rates. These reports are generated from AISI member data, which represent the majority of steelmaking capacity in North America. This data is combined with data from the U.S. Geological Survey data, which tracks the import and export of steel scrap, which also contribute to the overall steel recycling rate.

For the individual, product-specific market recycling rates, specific grades of steel production and steel scrap consumption are factored against market-specific data reported by the National Automobile Dealers Association, the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, the Can Manufacturers Institute, and direct surveys to scrap processors and demolition contractors.

The bottom line is that for more than two decades, SRI has used a consistent, credible rate, which applied across the lifetime of steel products, accurately reflects the comprehensive recycling accomplishments of the North American steel industry. Peaks and dips may occur at individual data points due to external factors, but as a whole, the rates accurately reflect, over time, the vast recycling accomplishment of the steel industry.

Quite simply, steel scrap is far too valuable of a resource to simply discard or leave to waste. It is economically and environmentally prudent for municipal solid waste programs, automotive dealerships and scrap yards, demolition contractors and manufacturers alike to ensure the recycling of any available source of steel scrap.

And, in representing steel producers in North America, there is no value in misrepresenting our industry’s recycling accomplishment, as ensuring every collection effort, and maximizing availability of steel scrap, is essential in maintaining a proper balance of supply and demand.

Differences in Steel Recycling Rate Reporting:

The Dovetail paper makes reference to differences in steel recycling rates as reported by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Canadian Steel Producers Association (CSPA), as well as mentioning other reporting bodies. As indicated above, recycling rate reporting is, essentially, in the eye of the reporting body. The scope and conditions are defined by the universe by which the reporting body operates.

For example, the USGS, which is a close partner of the SRI in rates generation, acknowledges that their data is extrapolated from about 25 percent reporting rate of receipts they track (M. Fenton, USGS). The CSPA, which was also cited in the Dovetail paper, limits the scope of its recycling rate reporting to Canada. As acknowledged above, the SRI rate calculations are built around the consumption and production of steel scrap, conserving resources.

Other, market-based approaches, referenced in the Dovetail paper also have their own set of assumptions or scope limitations. For example, the steel industry receives tons of recyclable steel cans, and other products, from waste to energy facilities, which lie beyond the typical municipal waste and recycling streams. In addition, a vast network of individual haulers—sometimes labeled as peddlers—scour the landscape and local curbsides in search of sources of steel scrap which they sell direct to scrap processors. This process reaches beyond the scope of typical recycling processes, however, it is represented when tracking the material flow into, and out of, steel production facilities.

Additionally, the Dovetail paper cited the inclusion of home (runaround) scrap and new (prompt) scrap in the calculations of steel recycling rates as a reason for differences. However, inclusion of these valuable sources of steel scrap is warranted as, by Dovetail’s definition, the uses of these sources of steel scrap “reduce the need for resource extraction and requires far less energy consumption” than producing steel from virgin material. It simply would not make sense to landfill, or otherwise, dispose of these large sources of steel scrap. Therefore, the steel industry embraces these sources of steel scrap and ensures that the resource savings are included in its annual rate benchmarks. The bottom line is that whether it is home (runaround), new (prompt), or old (obsolete) steel scrap, its use in steelmaking still conserves natural resources, and ultimately will return to the industry as part of steel’s continuous recycling cycle.

Infinite Recyclability vs. Continuous Recyclability: 

While a fine point, the Dovetail paper calls into question the infinite recyclability of steel, which, in full disclosure, would be more properly characterized as continuous recyclability. But, the sentiment is reflected through both characterizations. Steel can be recycled a continuous number of times without loss of strength or quality. The same cannot be said of many other materials. The Dovetail paper cites issues with contamination, or un-obtained recyclables, as barriers to steel’s continuous recycling cycle.

While, undoubtedly, as the Dovetail paper notes, any steel scrap that has not been collected through one of the processes, detailed above, has indeed broken the continuous recycling cycle, by nature of its omission. This, scrap, however is the exception to the rule as shown by steel’s high recycling rates—regardless of source or calculation methodology.

As for the contamination that the Dovetail paper also cites as a barrier to continuous recycling, this issue is efficiently marginalized through the classification of steel scrap by bundles as designated by ISRI Scrap Specification Circular cited above. These specifications for scrap bundles, give steelmakers a predictable understanding of the scrap being added to the steelmaking process in place of natural resources. Steelmakers then know, and can allow for specific tolerances that maximize the benefit from the bundled steel scrap, as well as the known alloys present on the steel in the bundles. Steelmakers readily adjust the mix of bundles and alloys to produce high quality steel that embraces the alloys and non-ferrous elements in scrap bundles—making these elements an asset rather than a barrier to continuous recyclability.

The Dovetail paper also cites slag, which is a known co-product of steelmaking as a yield loss. Slag is a result of impurities, metal oxides and other co-products, which are separated from the steel product to ensure purity. Like steel, the co-product slag, is also recycled. Slag is used widely in highway construction as asphalt aggregate, granular base, embankment cover or mineral wool insulation (National Slag Association 2013).

The steelmaking process, inclusive of the recycling of steel scrap in to new steel, is a highly efficient process. Through the investment in state-of-the-art steelmaking technologies, the AISI Annual Statistical Report cites a yield efficiency of 92 percent—indicating a very small impact of any yield loss to slag from impurities. Therefore, the final steel product represents a high-quality product that has been produced with steel scrap that reduces the need for natural resources and energy.

Bottom Line: 

Steel is North America’s most recycled material. Each year, more steel is recycled than paper, plastic, aluminum and glass—combined. Regardless of the reporting body, steel is recycled widely, through a plethora of material flows which may be reported upon differently dependent of the scope of the reporting organization.

The Steel Recycling Institute (SRI) makes every effort to accurately report and inclusively reflect the entire flow of steel scrap that is consumed by steelmakers in place of raw materials. There is simply no benefit to the industry, or overall recycling efforts, to “obscure actual recovery and recycling performance” as the Dovetail paper mistakenly implied.

Steel is blessed by physics and is able to be recycled continuously across the wide array of steel products while maintaining its material qualities. And through advanced technologies, the steel making process operates at a high level of efficiency, which minimizes any yield loss.

SRI continues to work closely across all aspects of the steel product life cycle to maximize the volume of steel scrap collected for recycling. Steel’s value and continued, predictable quality ensures that all efforts continue to be made to maximize the flow of steel scrap to steel mills—a goal shared by Dovetail, SRI and recycling rate reporting bodies alike. Lastly, SRI welcomes feedback and continues to work with industry partners to promote understanding of the steel recycling process, the benefits and the associated reporting.

Archives: Steel scrap: a world traded commodity

To most, the word ‘scrap’ evokes visions of unwanted, discarded leftovers. However, to the steel industry, scrap represents a vital resource that enhances all aspects of steelmaking.

The recycling of scrap metal is an integral part of modern steelmaking, improving the industry’s economic viability and reducing environmental impact. The recycling of steel scrap reduces the need for iron ore extraction, significantly reducing CO2 emissions, energy and water consumption and air pollution.

As a result of these efficiencies, steel scrap is increasingly being regarded as a raw material for manufacturing new products worldwide. As a result ferrous scrap–iron and steel–has become a globally-traded commodity. The increased demand for steel scrap is reflected in recent trade statistics.

The United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database shows that the volume of global scrap exports increased from 9.3 million metric tons in 1990 to 106 million metric tons in 2011. Figures from the Bureau of International Recycling show that total world steel scrap use increased 7.6 percent in 2011 to reach 570 million metric tons.

The globalization of the ferrous scrap market, however, also places stresses on the system. The long lifespan of steel products means the amount of steel available for recycling cannot keep up with the current world demand for new steel products. With steel structures can last longer than 60 years and automobiles often lasting longer than 12 years, steel products can be seen as scrap-in-inventory—meaning the steel will not be ready for recycling until the long life of the product comes to an end.

A positive aspect of steel is the ease of recycling when steel products finally do reach the end of their life. The ability to recover and collect old steel products for subsequent recycling is greatly enhanced by the inherent magnetic properties of steel; consequently a large tonnage of steel becomes available for recycling every year.

Figures from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. International Trade Commission, the U.S. is the world’s largest exporter of ferrous scrap—exporting nearly 23 million metric tons of iron and steel scrap in 2011. Globally, China, Taiwan, South Korea, India, Canada, and Turkey are the largest markets for exports of U.S. steel scrap in that same period.

North America is also one of the largest consumers of its own steel scrap—recycling more than 70 percent of that scrap domestically.

“This high level of scrap consumption is a reflection of the steel industry’s commitment to conserving energy and natural resources,” said Gregory Crawford, executive director of the Steel Recycling Institute in North America. “Scrap steel is used in everyday products, including packaging, appliances, automobiles and construction. Each year, more steel is recycled in North America than paper, aluminum, plastic and glass combined.”

This flow of scrap also faces challenges in the form of trade restrictions. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported in 2012 that North American and European ferrous scrap is traded openly, but that about 19 percent of the scrap trade is burdened by various trade restrictions.

The 2012 OECD report noted that “waste and scrap exports are restricted in many parts of the world. Waste and scrap trade involving iron and steel and non-ferrous base metals (copper, aluminum, lead and zinc) tends to be more regulated than trade involving other metals.”

The OECD found that in 2009, at least 19 percent of scrap of iron and steel, exported by a total of 34 countries, was subject to export restrictions. “Export restrictions dampen trade flows,” said the report. “In fact, some exports actually will not take place due to the very fact that export restrictions are in place. Export activity would be higher if restrictions did not exist.”

The rationales which governments cite most frequently as motivating their use of the restrictions include safeguarding domestic supplies, controlling illegal exports, and protecting local industry. Non-automatic export licensing, export taxes, and other export prohibitions were among the measures used to regulate the export of iron and steel scrap, according to the OECD.

News Release: 2011 Overall Steel Recycling Rate Hits All-Time High


2011 Overall Steel Recycling Rate Hits All-Time High

Record levels of steel scrap consumption announced on America Recycles Day

November 15, 2012, Pittsburgh, PA — In celebration of America Recycles Day, the Steel Recycling Institute (SRI) announced today that the recycling rate for the world’s most recycled material – steel – is at an all-time high of 92 percent. More than 85 million tons of steel scrap was consumed by steelmaking furnaces in 2011—an increase of nearly 10 million net tons versus 2010.

“This high level of scrap consumption is a reflection of the North American steel industry’s commitment to conserving energy and natural resources,” Gregory L. Crawford, executive director of SRI, said. “The use of steel in everyday products, including packaging, appliances, automotive and construction ensures quality while also supporting product stewardship, knowing that these products are routinely recycled at the end of their use, thanks to steel.”

Each year, more steel is recycled than paper, aluminum, plastic and glass combined, maintaining steel’s identity as North America’s most recycled material. This is reflected through the recycling rates of the quality products commonly made with steel.

The recycling rate for steel packaging has also reached an all-time high of 70.8 percent – with more than 1.5 million net tons of steel recycled. Automobile recycling rates have regained balance at 94.5 percent. This figure came after several years in excess of 100 percent – meaning more old cars had been coming off the road than new ones going back onto it.

Appliance recycling remained stable at 90 percent with more than 2.9 million net tons of steel recycled. Construction rates also remained stable with a recycling rate of 98 percent for construction plates and beams along with a rate of 70 percent for construction rebar.

Recycling rates for steel are generally released up to 18 months following the end of the calendar year as they are based on data released from: American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) Annual Statistical Reports, US Geological Survey, EPA Characterization of Municipal Solid Waste, National Automobile Dealers Association, Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries.

“While steel continues to be North America’s most recycled material, there is still progress that can be made,” continues Crawford. “Educating recycling coordinators and consumers on the inclusion of materials, especially empty steel aerosol cans, will increase the overall tonnage for the industry. America Recycles Day is a great reminder to all of us that there is more that we can be doing to divert valuable resources from our nation’s landfills.”

America Recycles Day is November 15. The Steel Recycling Institute was a founding member and SRI would like to encourage all consumers to take the pledge to recycle at http://americarecyclesday.org/pledge/.

SRI also provides resources to help consumers learn about how and where to recycle their steel products locally. Visit the Steel Recycling Locator at recycle-steel.org for additional information.

“The Steel Recycling Locator is one of the most comprehensive resources for steel recycling available to the public,” says Crawford. “It contains more than 35,000 records that benchmark the recycling infrastructure for all steel products.”

About the Steel Recycling Institute

The Steel Recycling Institute (SRI), a unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute, is an industry association dedicated to communicating the sustainable efforts of the North American steel industry. The SRI educates the solid waste industry, government, business and ultimately the consumer about the benefits of steel’s recycling accomplishments and advancements in sustainability. For more information on the steel industry’s sustainable efforts visit www.recycle-steel.org or www.sustainable-steel.org. Or follow the SRI on Twitter @EnviroMetal.


A Commitment to Sustainability

The North American steel industry is committed to building a sustainable future. The American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) and its member companies share a deep dedication to responsible stewardship of our natural resources so that future generations can enjoy them just as we cherish them today. We have long supported the value of recycling, creating in 1988, the Steel Can Recycling Institute (today known as the Steel Recycling Institute–SRI) to promote and sustain steel can recycling. In 1993 SRI’s (a business unit of AISI) mission was expanded beyond steel can recycling, to promote and sustain the recycling of all steel products, including automobiles, appliances, cans, construction materials and other steel products. The SRI educates the solid waste industry, government, business and ultimately the consumer about the benefits of steel’s infinite recycling cycle.

Over the past decade, AISI’s Board of Directors has identified environmental stewardship and commitment to sustainability as part of our strategic plan and our vision for the future. We have in the past, and continue to examine strategies to advance that vision.

Currently, we see the commitment to improving our environmental performance being advanced through:

  • Investments in new and innovative technologies;
  • Renewal of our long-time commitment to recycling;
  • Seeking to refine industry performance metrics
  • Collaboration, both across the industry and with other sectors, to extend our environmental progress even further.

Innovation has led to the introduction of a wide variety of new steels. In fact, 50 percent of the steels used to make automobiles today did not exist just 10 short years ago. The efficiencies gained from using lighter-weight yet higher-strength steels is impressive, which, when taken in the context of life cycle impact assessment, have the potential of helping achieve significant progress in emissions reductions. If currently available Advanced High Strength Steels were applied throughout the present U.S. automotive fleet, Greenhouse Gas Emissions from automobiles would be reduced by approximately 12 percent – an amount greater than the emissions generated by the entire American steel industry today.

The industry has committed significant resources to this effort. Since 1975, over $60 billion has been spent on new technologies to improve energy efficiency and productivity. That investment has paid off. The industry has reduced energy use per ton of steel shipped by more than 40 percent over the past 25 years and by 27 percent since the Kyoto baseline year of 1990. As a matter of fact the United States steel industry is the only significant industry in the U. S. that has reduced its total energy consumption while increasing its production in 2005 versus Kyoto baseline year of 1990.

Because of our long-term focus on recycling, the North American steel industry has seen a continued steady rise in the recycling rate for steel. For example, when it comes to cans, the steel can has outperformed the aluminum can for the past several years by having the highest recycling rate. The overall recycling rate of steel reached an all-time high based on the most recent data compiled through 2005, with an overall recycling rate of 75 percent. Surprisingly, the industry is still working to make the public aware that steel is the most recycling material on the planet – more than aluminum, paper, glass and plastic combined.

AISI has been actively engaged with a number of organizations outside our industry to achieve environmental progress. One major focus of AISI’s work has been the Asia Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate (APP). Cooperating with the U.S. Departments of Commerce, State, Energy and the EPA, AISI has played a leadership role in this important initiative. Founding partners Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and the United States have agreed to work together and with private-sector partners to meet goals for energy security, national air pollution reduction and climate change in ways that promote sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction.

Another collaborative effort that produced significant environmental progress is the National Mercury Switch Removal Program, in which AISI played a central role.   AISI efforts helped to successfully complete an agreement with all stakeholders to implement a national program to remove mercury switches from vehicles prior to dismantling. Our industry contributed $2 million over three years to help fund – along with $2 million from the automotive industry – the creation of the Implementation Fund to encourage removal of the switches. The program is being rolled out in all 50 states and will help ensure mercury air emissions compliance at both the electric arc and basic oxygen steelmaking operations.

Sustainable Development is generally defined as follows: “meeting the needs of today without compromising the ability of future generation to meet their own needs.” As a result of adopting this definition the steel industry has developed two key indicators to track our progress towards attainment. First, is our continued growth in the overall recycling rate, which not only saves precious raw materials but also significant amounts of energy for future generations to use. Secondly, is to continue to work with our customers to find ways to improve their use of steel whether it be a can, auto, or appliance manufacturer or an architect designing the next “Green Building.”

As you can see, through innovation, support for recycling, emphasis on metrics and collaborative strategies, the North American steel industry has made important headway on environmental initiatives. But this success cannot lead to complacency.

We need to press forward because the landscape around us is changing. Commitment to environmental stewardship, or “being green,” should not be construed as simply an attractive moniker or as a marketing gimmick. Our industry needs to be one of the players helping to shape the environmental agenda rather than watching from the sidelines.   More and more, we are seeing industry sectors making green attributes part of their criteria and standards of operation. A recent study, found that 85 percent of U.S. consumer business companies have active sustainability initiatives already in place. In the construction sector, we see the impact that the U.S. Green Building Council is having with its green building rating system (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED).

We see in the automotive, appliance and container markets similar emphasis, with increasing emphasis on life cycle impact assessment, given the federal government’s focus on CAFE standards, and developments such as Wal-Mart’s sustainability scorecard, a green rating system by which the world’s largest retailer has begun evaluating all packaged goods they sell and materials they utilize in all aspect of their business operations.   We can expect the awareness of more and more consumer-oriented companies to rise in sophistication regarding the impact of their products on the environment and a corresponding increase in their green marketing strategies.

The steel industry is poised, through the work of AISI, to further advance efforts to reduce its environmental footprint through research projects at universities around the country aimed at reducing, and eventually eliminating, CO2 emissions from the steel making process.

An example is a current project with Massachusetts Institute of Technology to produce iron by molten oxide electrolysis (MOE), which would generate no CO2 gases. This represents a significant first step towards carbon-free ironmaking by a technology that completely avoids emission of greenhouse gases from the smelter

In addition to the MIT project, AISI has three other long-range projects that will have a positive impact on the environment. These projects include: Ironmaking by Hydrogen Flash Smelting at the University of Utah; Geological Sequestration of CO2 at the University of Missouri-Rolla; and Integrating Steel Production with Mineral Sequestration at Columbia University.

I urge steel companies who may not yet be part of this vision for a sustainable future to join us. The challenge is great and the rewards will be enjoyed by our children and grandchildren as they carry on responsible environmental stewardship of our planet.




Archive: Steel Packaging Returns to Premium Coffee

The Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company (CBRC) has always maintained “sustainability and community outreach” as a company wide mantra. Their business decisions have reflected such since the company’s inception ten years ago and their decision of using steel packaging for their product embraces that trend.

“Back in the day, most every coffee product was in steel [containers],” says Neil Cooper, SVP of marketing and sales at CBRC. “Premium products started to use bags in place of steel cans, so the products using steel cans were the mid or lower priced coffee products. We decided to enter the premium priced segment and to celebrate the unique qualities of steel while using contemporary graphics and design characteristics as a point of difference versus our competitors.”

CBRC is not alone in their choice to use more sustainable packaging. With over 1.5 million net tons of steel packaging recycled last year, and a recycling rate of 67%, the public is showing that a sustainable and recyclable packaging material is a factor in their home purchasing needs.

“It is important to most people when they see us at an event, a customer coffee tasting, or at a water clean-up effort, they take notice,” according to Chris Paladino, CEO of CBRC. “They also tell their friends and business associates about a local company that is making an effort!”

In addition to their packaging, CBRC has and continues to differentiate itself from competitors by being involved in local events or causes. They purchase wind power, utilize distribution partners to collect used coffee grounds for farming compost and sponsor river clean-ups. Most employees are also involved in environmental organizations such as Trout Unlimited, the Severn River Partnership, and Silver Spring Green, among others.

The commitment to the environment is no better reflected than in CBRC’s established community outreach program called the ‘H2O Initiative.’ Its primary goal is to preserve and protect the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which extends across six states and almost 17 million Americans. CBRC pledges 2% of all coffee sales annually to go back in support of organizations that help to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. By including the H2O Initiative symbol on products, the hope is to encourage other companies and organizations to join CBRC’s program and find ways to make a difference.

Part of that difference includes reassessing packaging for environmental impact and its overall life cycle assessment in terms of sustainability without sacrificing a quality product.

“Steel is the perfect material to protect coffee beans from ‘the enemy’ [light, air and moisture],” says Paladino. “Recycle, Re-use, Repurpose is possible by using steel versus the non-recyclable materials used by most of our competitors. Our decision to use steel as our packaging choice came down to a commitment to the environment versus ‘low cost’ packaging alternatives.”

CBRC’s decision has thus far been a success, recently entering partnerships to be distributed in the Fair Trade Organic sections of regional Giant Food stores and Whole Foods’entire Mid-Atlantic region.

Much like the life cycle of their steel cans, CBRC’s efforts at making a difference are continuous and consumers are definitely taking notice.

For more information on CBRC and their programs, visit their website. To learn more about the benefits of packaging with steel, as well as a locator to find recycling locations for CBRC’s steel packages and other steel products, visit SRI’s website.

Archive: Award-Winning LEED Gold Center for Philanthropy Utilizes 220 Tons of Steel

The newly constructed Jack & Peggy Baskin Center for Philanthropy is an amazing new structure in Santa Cruz County, CA in that it was built to give both to the community and the environment through its use of steel.

Through donors and efforts by the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County (CA) the Center for Philanthropy has built a stunning new LEED Gold certified structure, The Jack & Peggy Baskin Center for Philanthropy, which is now open and available for public to utilize.

“The 220 tons of steel in the structure is a phenomenal amount for a small building,” says Executive Director Lance Linares.

Much of that steel used in the structure is part of a stainless steel bridge which connects three separate structures together to complete the entire center.

“[The steel bridge] is one of the key pieces,” says Linares. “We’re about two miles from the epicenter of the 1989 earthquake though. In earthquake country you need joints to vibrate independently and the steel allows that. The foundation and structure should be here forever and we wanted something substantial in terms of integrity.”

Designed by Mark Cavagnero Associates and built by Devcon Construction, the new centre has a total area of 10,000 square feet. It will hold 10 employees of the foundation with space to add 14 additional in the future.

While many donors questioned why the initial investment in LEED certification was necessary, Executive Director Lance Linares knew it was worth fighting for.

“We had planned to go for LEED certification all along,” explained Linares. “It’s always an interesting challenge when people are asking ‘why spend all this money?’ but that’s what’s needed when you’re building.”

Linares points to how many things that were once considered “luxuries” are now standard in many buildings and they intend on this building lasting for a long time.

Some luxuries, such as awards, are being given to the foundation now. It received recognition from the International Architecture Awards for 2011 and was showcased at an exhibition during the XIII BA11 International Biennial de Athenaeum in Buenos Aires, Argentina in October. Presented by The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design, the European Center for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies and the Metropolitan Arts Press Ltd it is considered the world’s most prestigious global award for new architecture and urban planning.

“The design is unique,” continued Linares. “It’s very modern but also somewhat timeless in the fact that it could’ve been built yesterday or twenty years ago, hard to pin point.”

Archive: U.S. Senate Passes Resolution to Reinforce Support for Recycling Nationwide

Pittsburgh, PA – 23 Nov. 2011: Steel, as North America’s #1 most recycled material, is applauding the U.S. Senate for passing Resolution 251 which expresses support for recycling, it’s positive impact on the US economy and reinforces the importance it plays in reducing green house gas emissions. The resolution was introduced by Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Co-Chairs of the Senate Recycling Caucus.

Messages of support for this resolution have come from organizations such as the National Recycling Coalition (NRC), AmericanIron and Steel Institute (AISI), and the Steel Recycling Institute(SRI), which shows steel plans to continue being a majority contributor to improving recycling numbers across the nation

“The steel industry has a vital role in recycling, with steel literally being the most recycled material in the U.S., as well as globally,” explained Thomas Gibson, President & CEO, AISI. “The extensive system of scrap processors and consuming steel mills throughout our nation provide a highly responsible end of life disposition for the steel in automobiles, containers, and construction materials. As old steel products become new steel products through recycling, the needs of people are fulfilled and we reduce impact on the planet.”

“The SRI sees the resolution as a welcome reminder that recycling is a win-win for individual citizens who participate and should do more,” remarked Greg Crawford, SRI Executive Director. “It is also important to material manufacturers and product producers who need more recycled feedstock to help reduce waste while saving energy and conserving natural resources.”

The country recycles steel at a rate of over 83% with specific products such as appliances (90%) and automotives (over 100%) even higher. Opportunities continue to grow by expanding product acceptance in curbside and drop-off programs, such as empty steel aerosol cans and empty steel paint cans. Many untrue myths or concerns continue to exist in the market about aerosol and paint cans that unnecessarily separates this potential valuable scrap from the stream. Recycling coordinators continue to find themselves at the demand of an increasingly informed public to include these locally.

“While this resolution is non-binding, we see it as just another in a growing list of very important indicators pointing out the rising – some might say, resurgent role – recycling has as a transformative US industry sector,” commented NRC President Mark Lichtenstein. “We do not equivocate when we say that we view recycling as absolutely essential in helping to build our new economy. This resolution supports that premise.”

The importance of a large influx of steel is important to the continuous life cycle of the industry, and therefore the economy. Old steel scrap is used to create new steel products which save energy and raw materials. In fact, for every one ton of steel recycled 2500 pounds of iron ore, 1400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone are conserved. While many products claim to be recyclable, steel backs it up by being one of the few that is truly recycled.

The importance of recycling and this resolution may be as simple as acknowledging that both Senate Democrats and Republicans, together, unanimously passed this resolution. Gibson concluded, “This is clearly a significant part of our national endeavor that everyone can agree upon.”

Archive: LEED Buildings Using Steel

LEED® is Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design. The LEED® Green Building Rating System™, as promulgated by the U.S. Green Building Council, aims to improve occupant well-being, environmental performance and economic returns of buildings using established and innovative practices, standards and technologies. The following buildings are focusing on achieving excellence in LEED® certification by utilizing steel as a primary building material.

The Viceroy Hotel in Snowmass, Colorado – LEED Gold

The Viceroy Hotel is the first Colorado hotel to achieve LEED Gold certification. Designed by OZ Architecture, the hotel is a 365,000 sq. ft, high-end ski-in/ski-out resort with a conference center. The hotel is the first in Colorado to achieve the LEED Gold certification.

It has integrated sustainable construction and designs. A structural steel roof will help with heating and cooling costs along with providing a recycled material to increase its overall LEED score.

During construction, builders used sustainable construction methods such as using locally sourced and manufactured materials. They recycled, reduced and reused construction waste. The builders used more of materials that had recycled content and remanufactured plumbing, electrical assemblies and concrete structures.

Consisting of 154 rooms, a full-service spa, and indoor pool the luxury hotel is a picturesque compliment to the beautiful backdrop of snow capped mountains.

Ultra Green Bullitt Center in Seattle, Washington Breaking Ground

The Bullitt Center in Seattle, WA just broke ground and will utilize materials, such as steel, which come from within 300 miles of the location. These local materials will significantly decrease the carbon footprint of the construction by decreasing emissions for transport and utilizing U.S. recycled steel.

“We set out to build the greenest office building — by far — in the world,” says Denis Hayes, president and CEO of Seattle’s environment-oriented Bullitt Foundation, the center’s owner. The six floor structure has been in planning for over three years when the University of Washington’s Integrated Design Lab, an arm of the architecture department, began brainstorming with Hayes and developer Chris Rogers.

Hayes and Rogers hope this unique building will spark a drastic change in the way commercial buildings are designed and built. “Change is coming,” Rogers says, “And we hope to be a part of it.”

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