Today, environmental factors are at the forefront of material selection for specifiers. Stainless steels long service life, 100 percent recyclability and its valuable raw materials make it an excellent environmental performer.
Stainless steel objects rarely become waste at the end of their useful life. Recycled stainless objects are systematically separated and recovered to go back into the production process through recycling.
As well as iron, stainless steel contains valuable raw materials like chromium and nickel which makes recycling stainless steel economically viable.
Stainless steel is actively recycled on a large scale around the world by recyclers who collect and process scrap (recycled stainless steel) for re-melting all around the world.
The use of stainless steel scrap is fundamental to the steelmaking process. There are two types of scrap – reclaimed scrap (old scrap) and industrial scrap (new scrap).
Reclaimed scrap includes industrial equipment, tanks, washing machines and refrigerators that have reached the end of their service life.
Industrial scrap includes industrial returns or production offcuts from manufacturing by industrial engineering and fabrication sources.
Today, stainless steel is made up of approximately 60% recycled content including:
The useful service life of stainless steel products is long so the availability of scrap is dependent on levels of production from decades ago.
With an average content of 25% of old scrap, stainless steel is close to the theoretical maximum content of material from end-of-life products.
Specialised expertise and sophisticated technology is needed in recycling to separate and prepare each type of alloy for re melting.
A recycling processor feeds the scrap into a large shredder to break it into smaller pieces.
It is then chemically analysed and stored by type.
This process may include ‘blending’ the scrap into chrome steels, nickel alloys and other types of stainless steels.
After blending into piles for specific customer requirements the scrap is then loaded into containers for export to overseas mills.
Scrap along with other raw materials, ferrochromium (chrome/iron), ferro moly (molybdenum/iron) and nickel are blended into an electric furnace.
After melting, impurities are removed, the molten metal is refined, and the chemistry analysed to determine what final adjustments are necessary for the specific type of stainless steel being produced.
The molten stainless steel is then cast into slabs or billets before production of plate, sheet, coil, wire and other forms in preparation for use by industrial manufacturers.
Industrial manufacturers produce stainless steel items that you use every day including cutlery, pots and pans, kitchen sinks and many architectural, industrial and other components.
At each stage of the production and use process, stainless steel retains its basic properties and utility value. Unlike many industrial and engineering materials, stainless steel may be returned to its original quality in the supply chain without any degradation.
You can be assured that even after its long service life, your environmentally efficient stainless steel will always return to you bright, shining and new!