The most recycled substance in the world

Recycling is one of the simplest proactive measures consumers can take to protect the environment. Paper, aluminum, plastic and glass are recycled on a daily basis, but have you ever considered that the most recycled material on this earth is not any of these materials? The most recycled material on this planet is steel. More steel is recycled each year than paper, aluminum, plastic and glass combined. According to the Steel Recycling Institute (SRI)—an organization committed to communicating the sustainability of the North American Steel Industry—the recycling rate of steel has reached well over 80 percent.

Steel scrap can be recycled at three points in its life—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.

The SRI emphasizes that steel impels the recycling of many consumer products, with the rate of recycled automobiles at 100 percent, the rate of recycled appliances at more than 80 percent and the rate of recycled steel packaging at more than 60 percent. The recycled steel from these goods is then used in creating raw steel. For example, in the year 2008, all steel in North America was made with a minimum of 25 percent steel scrap.

Manufacturers are adamant in recycling steel scrap, but consumers are just as capable of recycling their steel goods. To determine whether or not a steel product is recyclable, try to stick a magnet to it. If the magnet sticks, the product contains steel content and is usually recyclable.

To find a steel recycling center near you, visit the SRI Steel Recycling Locator at http://www.recycle-steel.org/cgi-bin/sridbq3.pl.

References
Steel Recycling Institute. (2009). Retrieved September 15, 2010, from http://www.recycle-steel.org/index.html