Recycling steel could provide a much-needed lifeline for the UK’s troubled steel industry, a new study has found, and have the added benefit of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Two-thirds of the steel currently used is made from primary production, and most of the remainder comes from off-cuts of the steel-making process, rather than recycled goods. The UK does not currently use all the scrap steel produced in the country, but global stocks of recyclable steel are expected to rise sharply in the coming decades.
A new report predicts that the potential for recycling steel is such that the need for primary production could diminish to near zero in the next 30 years. That would save vast quantities of carbon, in part because electric arc furnaces – used for recycling steel – are much more energy efficient than blast furnaces, which produce new steel from iron ore.
Prof Julian Allwood, professor of engineering and the environment at the University of Cambridge, and author of the report, said: “We must move our UK steel-making industry away from primary production towards recycled steel, made with sustainable power.
“This green steel model is the only future compatible with our goals for zero emissions. The UK, with its strong climate policy, mature stocks of steel, and great history of innovation in materials science and processing, is perfectly placed to be world-leading with a sustainable steel industry.”