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Steel Recycling Facts

The North American steel industry annually recycles millions of tons of steel scrap from recycled cans, automobiles, appliances, construction materials and other steel products. This scrap is remelted to produce new steel. There are two processes for making steel. The Basic Oxygen Furnace process, which is used to produce the steel needed for packaging, car bodies, appliances and steel framing, uses a minimum of 25% recycled steel. The Electric Arc Furnace process, which is used to produce steel shapes such as railroad ties and bridge spans, uses virtually 100% recycled steel. And, since all new steel products contain recycled steel, when you buy steel you help to close the recycling loop by buying recycled.

  • Virtually every car taken off the road is recycled.
  • Steel cans, including food, paint and aerosol cans, were recycled at a rate of 58% in 2001. The industry remelted more than 18 billion steel cans into new products. That's about 200 cans per every person with internet access in the U.S.
  • The amount of steel recovered through recycled packaging in 2001 (nearly 1.5 million tons) would yield enough steel to build 185,000 steel framed homes or the equivalent number of homes in the state of Wyoming.
  • In 2001, nearly 2 million tons of steel were recovered from recycled appliances, at a rate of 85%. The steel from the more than 39 million appliances recycled last year yielded enough steel to build about 160 stadiums the size of the new Pittsburgh Steeler Stadium. More than two appliances were recycled for every NFL fan who attended a regular season game last year.
  • In 2001, there were 26 cars recycled every minute across the United States. The more than 14.5 million cars recycled in 2001 would yield enough steel to produce 48 million steel utility poles­one third of the utility poles in the U.S.
  • Each year, steel recycling saves the energy equivalent to electrically power about one-fifth of the households in the United States (or about 18 million homes) for one year.
  • Every ton of steel recycled saves 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal, and 120 pounds of limestone.


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