Stainless steel refers to a group of versatile metals containing at least 10.5% of chromium, along with other alloying elements (nickel, molybdenum, and copper), to offer enhanced mechanical and physical properties. Today, stainless steel is a common material used for a wide range of applications, from common household kitchen essentials such as cutlery and cookware to medical equipment such as surgical implants and hemostats. It’s also often used in industrial applications such as in the aerospace and automotive industries.
One of the biggest reasons stainless steel is such a popular choice in industrial applications is because it’s 100% recyclable. Stainless steel doesn’t lose its material properties when it’s recycled—by making some additional elemental adjustments during the melting process, these scraps can be turned into a new batch of reusable stainless steel. With stricter environmental regulations on Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGs), focusing on the sustainability of stainless steel has become more imperative than before.
The Sustainability of Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is completely recyclable and has the highest recyclable rate among any other metal. According to research done by Yale University in 2019, out of the total stainless steel produced, 50% of the materials are scrap, and the remaining 50% are fresh raw materials.
The below table shows the most common sources of metal scrap, along with the total percentage of stainless steel recovery during the process.
|End-Use Sectors||Stainless Steel Collected for Recycling|
|Building and infrastructure||95%|
|Transportation (passenger cars)||85%|
|Household appliances and electronics||95%|
Industries can also target zero-waste stainless steel production. Here, slag and dust are reused for other construction projects, even including the waste coming out of the manufacturing process. For instance, in the United States, steel slag is considered a conventional aggregate for asphalt roads.
The sustainability of stainless steel also has social and economic benefits. Stainless steel is not harmful to people in any phase, from production to use. Also, reusing stainless steel boosts the economy to a degree that is not possible to achieve using virgin production materials.
Advantages of Stainless Steel Recycling
Although there are many advantages to stainless steel recycling, such as monetary savings, some of the biggest benefits are environmental, described in more detail below.
Saving the Environment from Mining
Stainless steel is available in different types such as austenitic, ferritic, and duplex. Each family of stainless steel has some unique advantages based on the list of basic elements added during the manufacturing process. For example, the ferritic family of stainless steel has chromium, molybdenum, niobium, and titanium to offer superior mechanical strength. The austenitic type stainless steel has chromium and nickel as major alloying elements for displaying high corrosion resistance.
Mining these rare earth elements, like molybdenum, titanium, chromium, or niobium, is a difficult challenge, as they are not available in abundance, and mining them releases a large number of radioactive materials that negatively impact the environment. When we melt scrap stainless steel, we almost fully recover those elements. As a result, we help save our environment and habitats from mining and the risk of radioactive exposure. Moreover, we maintain natural resources in the soil for any other useful applications.
Your Reliable Partner for Stainless Steel Recycling in the Bay Area
Industrial Metal Service has been actively empowering the sustainability of stainless steel by providing reliable metal recycling services to San Francisco Bay Area fabricators and metal shops for more than two decades. We can schedule a timely pickup of your daily or weekly production scraps, and we will ensure your contributions are valued at fair market prices using Thermo-Fisher XRF analyzers to verify their quality and composition. We can provide you with 55-gallon barrels as well as 4×4 and 4×6 containers (customizable) and roll-off services to help you easily store and label your scraps for easy transport and accurate valuations. We also supply new mill-sourced metals and verified remnants of stainless steel and other valuable metals such as aluminum, titanium, brass, and bronze.