Steel is the World's Most Recycled Material

Steel is the most recycled material on the planet, more than all other materials combined. Steel retains an extremely high overall recycling rate, which in 2012, stood at 88 percent.

The amazing metallurgical properties of steel allow it to be recycled continually with no degradation in performance, and from one product to another.

The sources for steel scrap are plentiful, but are classified into three main categories: home scrap, prompt scrap and obsolete scrap.

Home scrap is the scrap that is produced from within the mill itself and is available within weeks. Prompt scrap is scrap that it is produced from manufacturing products from steel, and is available within months. Obsolete scrap is scrap produced from steel products at the end of their lives and it may be decades before this scrap is available (example: The Golden Gate Bridge).

Even while two out of every three tons of new steel are produced from old steel, it is still necessary to continue to use some quantities of virgin materials. This is true because many steel products remain in service as durable goods for decades at a time and demand for steel around the world continues to grow.

Beyond the steel scrap itself, the steel industry has long recycled its by-products: mill scale, steelmaking slags, water and processing liquids. Likewise, steelmaking dusts and sludges are processed so that other metals, such as zinc, can be recovered and resused.

Steel is the engine that drives the recycling of many consumer goods as can be seen by the 92.5 percent recycling rate of automobiles, the 90 percent recycling rate of appliances and the 72 percent recycling rate of steel packaging. For more information on the industry’s steel recycling accomplishments, visit the Steel Recycling Institute website at

Or, for more information on the importance of Reducing, Reusing and Recycling, read this case history from WorldSteel.

At A Glance

The North American steel industry is committed to principles of sustainable development in manufacturing innovative products that meet society's needs. This commitment is aimed at improving the quality of life for everyone now and for generations to come. Our industry recognizes and values the interdependence of environmental, social and economic advances, goals that are best realized through market forces operating in a growth-oriented regulatory framework.