Steel, in its numerous forms — including cans, automobiles, appliances, guardrails, and structural beams — continues to be North America’s most recycled material. Nearly 100 per cent of steel in automobiles, 95 per cent of structural beams and plates, 80 per cent of appliances, almost 60 per cent of steel packaging, and 50 per cent of reinforcement bars and other construction steel is recycled today. Canada’s blue box program alone has diverted more than 1.5 million cubic metres of steel cans (food, paint, and aerosol) since 1986, equivalent in size to the SkyDome in Toronto.
Steel’s recycling success comes from several factors. First, steel can be repetitively recycled without loss of quality. Sections of steel frame used to build a home may have once been a soup can or part of washing machine, and may someday become a reinforcement bar (rebar). Second, its magnetic properties make for easy separation from other wastes. Third, it’s cheaper to produce new steel by using scrap steel.
Beyond these benefits, demand for scrap steel is aided by a vast infrastructure of scrap metal dealers across North America. In particular, there has been a shift in recent years toward small steel mini-mills that use 100 percent of the recovered steel. These mini-mills require less capital investment. Currently, half of Canada’s steelmaking capacity is based on this technology.
In terms of market strength, the central part of both the U.S. and Canada generally see higher scrap market prices than either coast. That aside, steel generally continues to be affected by low pricing of imported virgin material as well as the economic downturn.
For more information, contact Damian Bassett at 416-594-3457, extension 229 or visit www.csr.org (the CSR Sheet is located under “Publications”).