Steel News

25 Years and a Billion Tons of Steel Recycled: Steel Recycling Institute Marks Major Milestone

9/23/2013 - More than one billion tons of steel have been recycled by the North American steel industry since 1988, according to the Steel Recycling Institute (SRI), a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI). SRI marks its 25th anniversary this year with this milestone achievement and the release of the 2012 steel recycling rates.
Established in 1988 as the Steel Can Recycling Institute, SRI was commissioned by the North American Steel Industry to develop an infrastructure for the recycling of steel cans and serve as a primary information and technical resource. By 1993, SRI’s focus had expanded beyond just steel cans to promoting and sustaining the recycling of all steel products. Today, these efforts continue along with credibly documenting the superior environmental performance of steel through rigorous life cycle studies.
“Since its inception in 1988, SRI has served as a driving force behind growing the availability of a key resource for steelmaking processes—steel scrap,” said Gregory L. Crawford, executive director of SRI. "For a quarter century, SRI has been the local face of the steel industry, providing advocacy, information and assistance in facilitating increases in the recycling of major steel products, including cans, cars, appliances and construction materials.”
To track the success of these recycling efforts, each year, the SRI calculates the recycling rates for steel and major steel products. Recycling rates for steel are generally released up to 18 months following the end of the calendar year as they are based on data released from: AISI Annual Statistical Reports, US Geological Survey, EPA Characterization of Municipal Solid Waste, National Automobile Dealers Association, Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries.
For 2012, the overall recycling rate for steel was 88% with nearly 84 million tons of steel recycled. This included the more than 1.3 million tons of tin plate steel—the equivalent of 21 billion steel cans, which were recycled at a rate of 72%, the highest among packaging materials. More than 16.3 million tons of automotive scrap were recycled at a rate of 92.5% in 2012—the equivalent of 11.5 million automobiles. The year-to-year recycling rates for these products are included separately within this packet.
Other rates, including appliance and construction products are based on industry estimates of retail and scrap collections, including the more than 2.7 million tons of appliance steel recycled in 2012 at an estimated 90%. Also, each year, based on construction and demolition industry estimates, about 98% of out-of-service construction plates and beams are recycled and 70% of rebar and other structural steel are captured for recycling through demolition and disassembly.
The steel industry’s impressive recycling accomplishments are also at the core of other environmental advances by the North American steel industry. Since 1990, the steel industry has improved its energy efficiency per ton by 27% and has decreased its CO2 emissions per ton by 33%—making North American steel an environmentally-preferred material which aids its customers in improving the environmental performance of their products.
“The steel industry’s internationally-recognized energy efficiency, coupled with the recycling rate that is the highest of any material, proves our commitment to sustainability and resource conservation,” said Thomas J. Gibson, president and CEO of AISI. “For 25 years, steel’s recycling successes have been spearheaded by the SRI and we look forward to another quarter century, where steel leads social, economic and environmental advances.”
The commitment to collect and recycle steel has been inherent to steelmaking for nearly as long as steel has been made in North America. This is reflected through external scrap collection for recycling and by extensive recycling of byproducts of the steelmaking process.
“Our company, along with the entire steel industry, has a long history in recycling steel. We recycle many of our byproducts such as slag and blast furnace gas and are committed to continue to look for additional recycling opportunities,” said Ronald Kostyo, vice president and general manager, Severstal Dearborn.

The American Iron and Steel Institute serves as the voice of the North American steel industry in the public policy arena and advances the case for steel in the marketplace as the preferred material of choice. AISI also plays a lead role in the development and application of new steels and steelmaking technology. AISI is comprised of 24 member companies, including integrated and electric furnace steelmakers, and 127 associate members who are suppliers to or customers of the steel industry. AISI’s member companies represent over three quarters of both U.S. and North American steel capacity.
The Steel Recycling Institute is an industry association dedicated to communicating the sustainable efforts of the North American steel industry. The SRI educates the solid waste industry, government, business and ultimately the consumer about the benefits of steel’s recycling accomplishments and advancements in sustainability.