Resource efficiency is not just a buzzword with the European steel industry: The sector has been operating efficient steel scrap recycling systems for more than 150 years. Steel is 100 per cent recyclable. It can be reused over and over again without any loss of quality. Scrap is therefore a valuable raw material for steel production.
Because of its value, there is a well-established market for steel scrap. Steel in cars, for example, is recycled at a rate of more than 95 per cent. And steel packaging is recycled by more than 74 per cent in Europe, which makes steel the most recycled packaging material.
Modern European steel production is dominated by two process routes that rely on steel scrap in different ways. Steel production via blast furnaces is based on iron ore and uses scrap as an additional element when the iron from the blast furnace is refined to steel in a basic oxygen converter. Steel production in electric arc furnaces is almost completely based on scrap.This is not only highly resource-efficient, it also reduces the overall environmental footprint of steel making considerably. A holistic perspective integrating primary steel production in blast furnaces as well as steel recycling in the electric arc furnace route shows CO2 emissions from steel production decreasing with every recycling cycle.
Steel is not only 100 per cent recyclable, it is also a very durable material that can be in use for decades or even for centuries. While it is still in use, steel cannot be recycled. All steel scrap returned to European steelmakers is recycled, but demand for new steel products exceeds the amount of scrap available. At present, about 50 per cent of the total EU steel production is derived from recycled steel scrap.