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  • The life-cycle of steel

    Steel is a unique material because it is truly recyclable – when steel is recycled it becomes new steel and not an inferior product. Since steel does not downgrade when recycled, it can be re-used over and over again and moreover, steel is the most recycled material in the world. The impact of making steel can be viewed as an investment in a material which will be used again and again, rather than a one-off, making steel a highly sustainable material.

    Scrap steel is an essential ingredient for all new steel, so every steel-making plant is a recycling plant. The value of scrap steel ensures that whenever it can be collected and recycled, it is. But in many applications, steel lasts for a long time, so there is a lot of steel in the world, doing a useful job. At the same time, global demand for steel is growing. So, even with efficient recovery and recycling, scrap steel only accounts for about one third of total steel demand. At least for the foreseeable future, steel will need to be made from virgin resources, but it is essential to ensure that recovery and recycling is designed-in to all steel applications and that every piece of steel which can be recycled is.

    At Tata Steel, we’re working on designing more sustainable products that will further support the transition to a circular economy. 

    Our areas of focus include:

    • Reducing the environmental impacts in our value chain.

    • Eliminating waste across the entire product life cycle.

    • Light weighting and extending product life to reduce resource consumption.

    • Enhancing adaptability and durability to support reuse and remanufacture. 

    A few facts about the life-cycle of steel:

    • The recycling rate of steel depends on the end-use, but on average around 85% of steel, at the end of it’s first useful life, is recycled.

    • Over 99% of steel from scrap cars is recycled.

    • A UK study showed that 94% of steel is recycled when a building is demolished.

    • 99% of structural steel is recycled or re-used when a building is demolished.

    • In Europe, over 70% of steel packaging is recycled, which is far more than any other packaging material.

    Packaging recycling

    At Tata Steel we have a dedicated Packaging Recycling department in the UK. Packaging recycling is an important part of our business.

    Find out more