Steel is the most recycled material on earth – what’s in your steel building?
Environmental sustainability has been all the rage as of late. Renewed focus on the impact humanity has on the environment has driven us to examine the way we consume energy and natural resources. However, you might be surprised to learn just exactly how environmentally friendly steel is as a material and why steel building construction methods have many advantages!
Steel is all around us, whether it’s in our cars, buildings, tools, and packaging. However, it’s an almost a virtual guarantee that steel goods have held many past shapes, forms, and purposes. With a recycling rate of near 90%, steel is the most recycled product in North America. Steel is not only good for the environment, it’s also good for the economy. Recycled steel helps cut costs during the production phase, but also reduces the amount of raw resources we would otherwise have to collect to create the steel goods we require.
Steel buildings themselves may contain recycled contents from a plethora of sources – let’s examine what sort of common items whose re-use may have a hand in steel buildings throughout America coming to fruition.
While the automobile might be a contentious figure in the environmentally friendly realm, the majority of it’s structure is made from the most recyclable material on the face of the planet. Steel frames and parts keep their material value long after the car itself has been deemed worthless. This has led cars and trucks to become the most recycled product in the United States.
While other parts of the car are fit for recycling, 60% or more of an automobile is made entirely from recoverable steel. With nearly of 100% of all cars making it to the recycling yard at the end of their lifespans, automobile steel constitutes the largest source of steel recycling in North America. Every year, over 18 million tons of usable steel is recovered from retired beaters, clunkers, and junkers.
Another source of reusable steel can be found all throughout the average American household. From the TV in your living room, to the fridge in the kitchen, steel can be found in a useful quantities in almost every home appliance.
Similar to the automobile, the average home appliance is comprised of 60% steel. Steel is a choice material for operating parts – it’s durability and toughness helps elongate the average appliances lifespan to around 15 years! With a typical recycling rate of around 90% ,steel helps keep your unwanted appliances in the circle of use and out of the landfill. Innovation and technological advancement serve to increase the energy efficiency of an appliance during use ; while recycling ensures that we reduce resource and energy consumption to produce new machines.
While automotive and appliance steel help get us to our destination and finish the tasks at hand, steel is also widely used to package the goods that we use daily. Food, aerosol products, and paint are all commonly packaged and stored in steel containers. Steel packaging serves a variety of purposes: keeping your green beans preserved and safe to eat, containing pressurized aerosols, and even to move large quantities of goods throughout the world in massive steel shipping containers.
The many uses of steel containers are as impressive as the quantity of material able to be recovered from them. The millions of steel barrels used to transport materials that are vital to the world economy, such as crude oil and other industrial materials are viable well after their contents have been used. Large steel shipping containers can also be recycled and have even been used to make impromptu steel and modular buildings without any intensive reformation!
The average house requires the equivalent of an acre’s worth of trees during construction. This investment of 40 to 50 trees worth of natural material often cannot be recycled or recovered. The use of wood materials in construction yields to greater scrap material production and depletion of our national forests. This is why steel has become increasingly common in residential house framing. Since steel has the best weight to strength ratio of any construction material, less steel can be used to accomplish the same job – about six automobiles worth per home.
Outside of the home, substantial amounts of steel can be found in structures such as bridges, train tracks, monuments, and commercial buildings. In commercial structures, steel is commonly used in support and roofing materials. Skyscrapers, warehouses, and even famous landmarks such as the golden gate bridge all contain steel that can be repurposed and could eventually take shape as your brand new metal building!