Scrap recycling has been integral to the U.S. economy, job creation, resource sustainability, energy savings and global trade for more than 200 years. Today, the U.S. scrap recycling industry employs more than 137,000 people. Annually, scrap recycling transforms more than 130 million metric tons of obsolete materials from consumers, businesses and manufacturers into useful raw materials.
Currently, steel ranks as the most recycled material on the planet, more so than paper, plastic and glass combined. And those three items are recycled on a daily basis.
Steel scrap can be recycled at three points; “as home scrap, prompt scrap and obsolete scrap. Home scrap is produced at the mill itself, available within weeks. Prompt scrap is produced during the manufacturing of new steel products and is available within a few months. Obsolete scrap is created from any steel product that has reached the end of its useful life—such as steel from an automobile, cans from recycling centers and structural beams from buildings or bridges. Decades may pass before obsolete scrap is available”.
According to the Maryland Department of the Environment, “When one ton of steel is recycled, about 2,500 lbs. of iron ore, 120 lbs. of limestone, and 1,400 lbs. of coal are conserved.”
Additionally, steel by-products such as mill scale, steel-making slags, water and processing liquids are also recyclable, as well as steel-making dusts and sludge, from which zinc can be recovered.
The environmental benefits of recycling are numerous, keeping decomposition out of landfills reduces the risk of pollutants entering our soil and ground water. Recycling also conserves high amounts of energy, as metals can be recycled an endless number of times.
The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. (ISRI)
Maryland Department of the Environment