Recycled Materials Matter: Spotlight on Iron and Steel

Mar 13, 2024, 17:28 PM
Content author:
Arnulfo Moreno
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The following is an excerpt from the ISRI Recycled Materials Industry Yearbook. The yearbook is designed to be a comprehensive source of information about the recycled materials industry, as well as a reference document with a wealth of statistical data about our industry.

The production of cars and trucks, highways, bridges, railroads, energy, homes and commercial buildings, structures, appliances, machinery and equipment, and weapons systems in the U.S. defense industry, all rely heavily on steel. U.S. steel manufacturers in turn rely on recycled iron and steel to produce the high quality, low-embodied carbon steel products — those made with less climate impact — required by end users. Over 70% of the steel manufactured in the United States is so called “green steel,” made from recycled material. Producing steel from recycled material at electric arc furnaces (EAFs) — which routinely use 90–95% recycled material inputs — requires less than half the energy required by producing steel from primary materials like iron ore.

In 2022, U.S. steel mills consumed approximately 56.6 million metric tons of recycled iron and steel in order to produce 82 million metric tons of steel. End-of-life (obsolete) consumer products such as cars and appliances, along with demolished buildings, old railroad tracks, decommissioned ships, and used farm equipment are major sources of recycled iron and steel. In addition, the manufacturing process produces prime recycled steel: leftover material that results from stamping, cutting, trimming, or punching. Recycled ferrous metal consumption is projected to rise in the coming years amid significant EAF capacity expansion plans in the U.S. and abroad.

Nearly 80% of the recycled iron and steel recovered in the United States is sold to domestic steelmakers, foundries, and other manufacturers.

The balance is exported to recycled steel consumers in 80-plus countries around the world. The United States is the largest single exporter of recycled iron and steel in the world. U.S. recycled iron and steel exports (excluding stainless and alloy steel) declined 3.9% year-on-year in 2022 by quantity to 16.0 million metric tons and were down 0.2% in dollar terms to $6.9 billion.

The following is an excerpt from the ISRI Recycled Materials Industry Yearbook. The yearbook is...
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