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  • Recyclable and recycled

    Steel is not only fully recyclable, but is actually recycled. Steel is recycled because it is economically favourable to do so. Unlike for many other materials, the infrastructure and incentive for recycling steel exists. And when steel is recycled, it is not down-graded, but is truly recycled to become new steel, again and again.

    Steel is the most recycled material in the world and recycled steel is used in the manufacture of all new steel. So it is natural to ask the question “What is the recycled content of my steel?” on the assumption that steel with a higher proportion of recycled content might be more ‘sustainable’. But for steel this may not be true.

    The concept of recycled content is a useful metric to stimulate economies of scale around recycling of materials which may otherwise be incinerated or landfilled. But this is not the case for steel. Steel has been recycled for over 150 years and the recycling process and infrastructure is efficient and economical without any added stimulus. Scrap steel is valuable, so wherever it can be recovered, it is and very little steel ever goes to waste. So, buying steel on the basis of high recycled content does not stimulate further recycling, but may actually stimulate the market to redirect feedstock away from products or markets where recycling is most economical – potentially just reducing efficiencies and increasing costs and international transport of steel.

    This view is shared across the metals industry and also by institutions like the Carbon Trust and the UK Waste Recycling Action Programme (WRAP). Rather than attempting to increase the recycled content of steel, the way to make steel-based products more sustainable is to ensure that, at the end of their useful lives, the steel can be easily recovered to ensure continued, economic recycling.

    Packaging recycling

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

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