Steel is North America's Number #1 Recycled Material. Each year, more steel is recycled than aluminum, paper, glass and plastic combined! Today, the American steel industry operates with the lowest energy consumption per ton of steel produced in the world. Since 1990, energy intensities to make one ton of steel have been reduced by 30 percent. In addition, there are several types of durable coating solutions which both protect steel – and are safe for the environment.

The following information provides additional details about the sustainable benefits of steel and the various coatings used.

Additional facts and figures about the sustainable benefits of steel:

  • The estimated recycling rate for steel resulting from construction and demolition activities was 87.9% in 2010.
  • Steel from a disassembled bridge can be used again for another project. When Hurricane Ivan damaged the bridge over Florida’s Escambia Bay in Pensacola, contractors used 36-inch steel beams from a disassembled bridge in Tennessee to make substructure repairs.*
  • The energy conserved each year by recycling steel could power approximately 18 million homes.
  • Steel’s energy use has been voluntarily reduced by 33% since 1990.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions per ton of steel shipped have been reduced by nearly 45% since 1975.

Information about the North American Steel Industry

  • Since the early 1970s, the North American steel industry has invested over $60 billion in becoming a more sustainable industry. In a typical year, more than 15% of the steel industry's capital expenditures are directed towards environmental improvement.
  • Steelmaking in North America is world-class. North American steelmakers are leaders in labor productivity, technology development and implementation.
  • To produce steel, facilities use one of two processes, which utilize different raw materials and technologies. There are two main steelmaking processes used in North America—the Basic Oxygen Furnace and the Electric Arc Furnace.
    • The basic oxygen furnace (BOF) process uses 25% to 35% old steel to make new steel. It produces products, including automotive fenders, encasements for refrigerators, and packaging like soup cans, five-gallon pails and 55-gallon drums, whose major required characteristic is drawability.
    • The electric arc furnace (EAF) process uses virtually 100% old steel to make new steel. It produces products, including structural beams, steel plates, and reinforcement bars, whose major characteristic is strength.
  • Internationally, the steel industry has established the CO2 Breakthrough Program to fund the development of new steelmaking technologies that do not emit CO2. The program also includes research and development into technologies that capture and sequester CO2.