Steel Recycling steel

Scrap steel reduces related water pollution, air pollution, and mining wastes by about 70%. It takes four times as much energy to make steel from virgin ore. Annually, enough energy is saved by recycling steel to supply the city of Los Angeles with almost a decade worth of electricity. (Source: National Polymers Inc.)

Recycled steel cans are used to make new steel products including cars, bridges, lawnmowers, stoves, and construction materials. Over 5400 BTU's of energy are conserved for every pound of steel recycled . The steel industry's annual recycling saves the equivalent energy to electrically power about 18 million households for a year. Every time a ton of steel is recycled, 2500 pounds of iron ore, 1000 pounds of coal and 40 pounds of limestones are preserved. (Source: School and College Magazine/ June 1993)

We throw away enough iron and steel to continuously supply all the nation's automakers. (Source: 1996 Environmental Defense Fund, New York)

The U. S. steel industry remelted nearly 19 billion steel cans- 58 percent of all cans purchased- in the making of new products in 1996. More than 28 percent of the average new steel can consists of recycled steel. Steel's overall recycling rate was calculated at 65.2 percent for 1996. Basic oxygen steel furnaces can use 28 percent scrap steel as feedstock while electric arc furnaces can use up to 100 percent scrap steel. (Source: Steel Recycling Institute)

The steel industry recycled nearly 19 billion steel cans into new products, about 600 cans recycled every second. (Source: "Recycling and Buy Recycled Fact Sheets" America Recycles Day)

Every day Americans use enough steel and tin cans to make a steel pipe running from Los Angeles to New York... and back. If we only recycle one-tenth of the cans we now throw away, we'd save about 3.2 billion of them every year. Tin cans are actually 99% steel, with a thin layer of tin added to prevent rusting.

Recycling steel and tin cans saves 74% of the energy used to produce them from raw materials. At least 70-80% of the tin on a can is saved when you recycle it. This cuts down mining waste and preserves a valuable ere source. Americans use 100 million tin and steel cans every day. Every minute of the day, more than 9,000 tin cans are recovered from the trash with magnets. The average American throws out about 61 lbs. of tin cans every month. (Source: EarthWorks Group's- The Recycler's Handbook)


  • About 11.6 million tons of ferrous metal waste ( e.g. iron and steel) was generated in 1995.
  • Ferrous metals constituted 5.6 percent of the MSW stream in 1995.
  • Overall, about 30.7 percent of ferrous metals from durable goods were recycled in 1995.
  • Approximately 54.4 percent of steel packaging (e.g., cans and strapping) was recycled.

Source: U.S. EPA 1996. Characterization of Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: 1996 Update EPA530-R-97-015, Washington, D.


Statistics Steel Products Recycling Rates (1996)

  • Steel Cans     58.2 percent
  • Appliances     76.4 percent
  • Automobiles   97.9 percent
Source: Steel Recycling Institute

Percentage of U.S. raw material needs supplied by commonly recycled nonferrous metals:

  • Copper  43%
  • Aluminum  32%
  • Lead  55%
  • Zinc  19%

Energy Savings

Estimated energy savings achieved by manufacturing products with nonferrous scrap:

  • Aluminum  95%
  • Copper  85%
  • Lead  65%
  • Zinc  60%

Raw materials of metallic scrap processing and recycling:

Aluminum, iron, copper, zinc, tin, lead, nickel, chromium, cobalt, molybenum, tungsten, magnesium, manganese, titanium, zirconium, columbium, tantalum, gold, silver, and platinum.

Benefits of using Iron and Steel (ferrous metals) instead of virgin ore to make new steel:

  • Savings in energy 74%
  • Savings in virgin materials 90%
  • Reduction in water use 40%
  • Reduction in water pollution 76%
  • Reduction in air pollution 86%
  • Reduction in mining wastes 97%
  • Reduction in consumer waste generated 105%
Source: Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries

Green Networld
Westfield, Massachusetts

Last update: 11/09/1999