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Steel and You

The Life of Steel
Steel and You

Contents Introduction

Introduction 3 Steel fulfils a unique place in our lives and yet few of us fully realise just how important steel
is to us. It is one of the most common materials that we come into contact with every day.
Recycling 4 - 5
The recyclability of steel is particularly amazing. There are few other materials that can be
Transport 6 - 7 recycled over and over again without loss of properties. Even steel created 100 years ago can be
recycled today and used in new products and applications. As we contemplate the legacy we will
Energy 8 - 9
leave our children and grandchildren we must focus much harder on the sustainability of our world.
Water 10 - 11 The recyclability of steel is an invaluable asset.
Today, a very important focus of our attention is on reduction in steel-related greenhouse gas
Housing and Construction 12 - 13
Packaging 14 - 15 Over the past 25 years the steel industry has engineered a revolution in its performance through
massive investment in new products, new plants and technology and in new methods
Agribusiness 16 - 17
of working. But there is still much more to be done.
Automotive 18 - 19 In this brochure we seek to give you some insight into both how steel is made today and how its
application is changing the face of the world in which we live.
Communication 20 - 21
As an insight into the life around us I hope you will find it interesting and perhaps even occasionally
By-product reuse 22 - 23 astonishing.
Summary 24
Credits 25
Ian Christmas
Secretary General
International Iron and Steel Institute (IISI)

Steel and You

Did you know that steel is the most recycled
material in the world? According to IISI
estimates, the 20 billionth tonne of steel
was recycled in October 2007. Steel is
100% recyclable. It can be infinitely recycled
without loss of quality. It is one of the few
materials that does not lose its properties
when it is recycled. How do I know it is steel? What percentage of steel is recycled?
Did you know that steel is one of the few Almost all available steel is recycled as it is
magnetic metals? This makes it easy to an important input to the steelmaking process.
Why is recycling important to the separate steel from other metals. In most sectors, including automotive and
steelmaking process? Steel products are often labelled with construction, steel recycling rates are between
Creating new steel from recycled steel, the letters FE in a circle. Fe is the chemical 80 and 100%.
rather than iron ore, reduces CO2 symbol for iron, the main element in steel. Construction steel can also be reused without
emissions. In 2006, recycled steel made Iron is the most stable of all elements. reprocessing. This saves greenhouse gas
up more than 40% (or 496 million metric It is the most abundant material in the emissions, providing an added environmental
recycling approach
tons) of the 1.240 billion metric tons universe, the fourth most abundant advantage.
The steel industry, along with many other
of steel produced. This saved an material in the Earth’s crust and it forms Steel and iron components make up around
metal industries, strongly supports the
estimated 894 million metric tons of the core of our planet. 65% of the average vehicle. Once all fluids have
end-of-life recycling approach. It enables
CO2. Recycled steel is as strong and Steel
manufacturers, policymakers, designers, been drained and reusable parts removed from an
durable as new steel made from iron cans are 
consumers and other decision-makers automobile, scrap processors shred the vehicle.
ore. Unfortunately, there is not enough the most recycled
to ensure minimal waste and maximum The average recycling rate for steel and iron in
steel scrap available to meet all the food and beverage
recycling and reuse of materials. cars is close to 100%.
demand for new steel. container in the world.
By improving design, the need for
Globally, around 64%
new steel production can be reduced
of steel packaging
as steel components can be reused
is recycled.
without reprocessing.
Ship Iron ore Scrap

Capesize vessels 496 million metric
are used to tons of steel were
transport coal Iron ore is a vital recycled in 2006.
and iron ore. ingredient in steelmaking.
Steel and You

Transport Aircraft
Aeroplane landing gear contain
ultra high-strength steel
Trains, ships, cars, bicycles and many other High-speed tracks use long and welded because of its unique
rails, which improve passenger comfort combination of strength
forms of transport rely on the strength and
and load capacity. Even the railway and toughness. Modern
versatility of steel. No other material has this sleepers are made of steel. Laser- ultra high-strength steels
range of properties. For many years, steel guided precision technology is are stronger and lighter than
has been used to move people and goods used to grind the steel the traditional grades they
wheels of trains, have replaced. This advanced
around the world or just around the corner. which minimises steelmaking technology
friction, contributes to the safety
noise and of passengers.
Trains vibration.
Often people prefer to travel
by train rather than by plane,
especially for short journeys. Bicycles
Today’s high-speed trains Steel plays Ships
can travel at up to 500 km/h a key role in the bicycle’s Capesize vessels are huge double-
and in temperatures ranging legendary robustness and hulled bulk carriers that can hold
from scorching to well below longevity. For strength and more than 140,000 tonnes of
freezing. The CO2 emissions stiffness of bicycle frames, steel cargo. The double-hull is made
from train travel are very low. is unbeatable as the material from a new generation of steel that
of choice. Cycling is one of the is stronger and lighter. The use of
most environmentally-friendly The such large vessels reduces the
modes of personal transport. steel used in number of sea voyages needed.
shipbuilding must This lowers greenhouse gas
have impact toughness,
emissions from shipping activities.
corrosion resistance in sea
water, fatigue resistance
(to withstand continual
wave action) and

New, very large Waste gases
blast furnaces can be recovered Secondary
produce less CO2. and reused. processing
refines the steel.
Blast furnace Converter Ladle furnace
Steel and You

Energy Special steel alloys were used
in the construction of the PS10.
The steel alloys are critical to
Tides are regular and
predictable, making them an
The main component of the tidal
turbine is a steel pile. With proper
maintenance, the surface-protected
Deep cuts in fossil fuel usage cannot be the reliable operation of the hot excellent source of renewable steel has a proven lifespan of over 40
achieved without large volumes  of  energy molten-salt pumps that convert energy. The power of the tide years in harsh marine environments.
solar energy into electricity. can be harvested in several Construction of a pre-commercial
from renewable sources. Steel is an Such steels are capable of ways. tidal turbine is planned for late 2007.
important component of the structures withstanding the corrosive effects A technique under development It will be installed in Strangford
that make these renewable energy sources of salt-lubricated bearings, uses a structure that resembles a Lough, Northern Ireland. The turbine
surrounded by nitrate salt submerged windmill. This modern could generate up to 1.2 megawatts
viable. at 565°C. “tidal turbine” can be installed in of energy and will be connected to
areas with high tidal velocities or fast the power grid.
and continuous ocean currents.

Steel is also an important element in the Wind
Planta Solar 10 (PS10) sandwich construction of the heliostats. During its lifetime, a wind turbine can
The first commercial-scale The glass mirror is typically bonded to deliver 80 times more energy than is
concentrating solar power plant was a steel sheet. Surface treatments, such used in its production, maintenance and
inaugurated in early 2007, near the as electro-galvanising, help to protect recycling.
Spanish city of Seville. The Planta Solar against corrosion and subsequent When installed on a good site, a
10 (PS10) relies on large numbers of breakdown of the mirror surface. 3.0 megawatt wind turbine will
mirrors that reflect and concentrate Bonding the entire mirror surface to generate approximately 280,000
sunlight on a central collector point for the steel sheet also helps maintain the MWh (megawatt-hours) in 20 years.
conversion into electricity. With some integrity of the mirror if it breaks, so that This spares the environment
624 mirrors (or heliostats) already it can continue to function safely. approximately 230,000 tons of CO2
installed, thousands will be added to Steel sheets are easily formed to the compared to a coal-fired power
the present arrays to greatly increase desired curvature for focusing the Steel station producing an equivalent
the plant’s capacity. sunlight. is the main amount of energy.
material used in
wind turbines. The
tower, gears, bearings,
generator, shafts, casings

The EAF uses an Ladle and various other parts
depend on steel.
electric current to Continuous casting
melt scrap and other Holds between
steel. Less carbon- 50 - 300 tonnes Continuous casting is a
dependent than the of steel. more efficient method
blast furnace method! of casting.
Electric arc furnace
Steel and You

Water Pipes
The inherent strength of steel means that pipes can
be made with thinner walls than other pipe materials.
Water is essential for all forms of life. This maximises the capacity and working pressure of
It covers over 70% of the earth’s surface. the pipe and means that smaller trenches are required,
reducing excavation and backfill expenses.
Yet less than 1% is available as freshwater. Steel pipe has the best performance of all pipe
Managing water resources is one of the materials in seismically active zones.
critical challenges facing humanity. Steel pipe is lightweight which means
that it is light on the environment
Steel helps to protect this valuable resource during manufacture and transport
all along the supply and delivery chain. to the installation location.
Longer lengths enable faster,
more economical installations.
Coatings and corrosion
protection lead to long life
and low maintenance,
Barriers further reducing the
Flood risk management has become environmental impact
a specialised task for governments and of the pipe.
engineers. The Thames Barrier is a system of
Rainwater tanks stainless-steel-plated hollow flood gates that
A typical Australian stretch across the River Thames. The gates
household uses about are left open for traffic in normal conditions
280,000 litres of water each and closed when there is a risk of flood. As
year. Installing a rainwater The total structure uses 36,000 tonnes of the earth’s
tank has the potential to reduce temperature rises,
structural steel, and 10,000 tonnes of steel
residential fresh water requirements sea levels are also rising.
reinforcement. Use of steel allowed much
Melting polar ice caps and the
by 50%. A recent study by the University of the barrier to be pre-fabricated. Making
expansion of the sea’s waters as
of Newcastle (Australia) compared the construction quick and easy. they get warmer are contributing
environmental impact of steel, concrete, With the barrier in place, the flood risk is factors. Sea levels rose by
and plastic tanks over their life cycle. reduced to 1 in 2,000, or 0.05%. 10 to 20 cm during the
The study found that rainwater tanks 20th century.
made from steel have the lowest overall
environmental impact. At the end of its life,
the steel tank can be completely recycled.
Today external waste, such as Light weight, high- strength steels
plastics, can be added to a are also light on the environment.
blast furnace, reducing the CO2
emissions from coal. Plate
Welded pipes
Steel and You

Housing and Construction Advantages over other materials
Analysis of steel-intensive buildings has shown that
water consumption, waste, and trips to and from
Building suitable housing for an ever-growing the site can all be reduced when using steel
population is a major issue around the construction solutions. Compared to concrete, steel-
Energy saving intensive buildings have less impact on
world. Today, housing solutions must be the environment during on-site work. Construction
In the life of a building, most of
sustainable in both the building and use- the energy use goes to lighting time is also quicker.
phases of their life. They must also be easy and temperature control. Cooling Unlike wood, steel is not prone to termite
a building normally requires more attacks and rot. Steel withstands severe
to recycle and affordable. weather and fire more easily. With the
energy than heating or lighting.
Good design can help to minimise increase in severe weather events due
energy use, and so can building to climate change, these are significant
The strength of building with steel attributes for a construction material.
with steel. Highly-efficient steel
Ultra-high-strength steels (UHSS) reduce the Steel also outlasts other materials. Most
cladding systems help keep
need for heavy load-bearing beams. Beams steel products are in use for between
interiors cool in summer and warm
can now be made thinner, increasing the 40 and 100 years. With proper maintenance,
in winter.
usable space in a building. They can also be this can be extended even further.
made longer, eliminating the need for some
supporting pillars. Larger windows can be
used, which increases light and ventilation
UHSS also save energy and greenhouse
Reuse and recycle
gas emissions. Less material needs to be
Reuse of steel construction
produced to make the building components,
elements offers an even greater
thereby saving on emissions during the material-
environmental advantage than
creation phase. Lighter and fewer components
recycling. Flexible design can
also means lower emissions during transport
allow for movable walls.
to the building site. All new homes in Or, the entire structure can be
the United Kingdom taken down and re-assembled
will have to be carbon elsewhere.
neutral by 2016.
A steel building can be flexible
Billet enough to be put to alternative
use, avoiding demolition.
Combining steel and outer Bloom
thermal insulation provides
excellent airtightness and Productivity and yield from
insulation which helps Structural shapes
steelmaking have improved
prevent corrosion. and profiles over the last 20 years.
Steel and You

Packaging New developments in packaging technology
Steel companies are constantly looking at ways
to improve their products. In the past, steel cans
Modern packaging must do more than Reusing steel packaging came in one shape of differing sizes and required
protect products and enable efficient and Not all steel packaging ends up being made a paper label so you knew what was inside.
into other steel products. Some types of steel They were also difficult to open unless you
effective distribution. It must also serve as had a can opener.
packaging are re-used, saving on further
critical point-of-sale advertising. Steel is processing. Today’s steel cans enable manufacturers
a versatile packaging solution, with unique A leading vacuum-cleaner maker has to print directly on to the surface of
recently started selling its products in steel the steel in full colour. New drawing
properties that offer endless possibilities for techniques make a wide range of
containers that can be reused as a stool or
shaping and embossing. storage solution. shapes possible including conical and
The R4 concept house, developed by elliptical cans. Opening mechanisms
Spanish architect Luis De Garrido, takes old have also been improved so that
Flat pack system it is possible to open a can of food
steel shipping containers and reuses them
The idea of ready-to-assemble or flat-pack Package design and printing
as housing modules. The modules can be wherever you are.
furniture has been around for many years. Consumers make 70% of
tailored to the specific needs of a family,
The use of steel for flat pack furniture is their buying decisions at the
using as many modules as required.
relatively new. A new system, developed retail shelf. Steel is a versatile
by SuperRobot in Japan, uses a single packaging solution that offers endless
piece of sheet steel to create items of possibilities for shaping and embossing
domestic furniture such as chairs, stools, in a wide variety of distinctive finishes.
lamps, and shelving systems. Simplicity is Steel packaging, like all steel products,
key. is 100% recyclable. Steel cans and
The advantages are many. Items are easy packaging are easily extracted from the
to store and to transport in bulk. One waste stream using industrial magnets.
truck can deliver many products, thereby Sorting efficiency is almost 100%.
saving energy. And the product is not This means that nearly all the steel
easily damaged in transit. packaging we use is recycled.

Steel rebar makes
Used to make flexible structures
reinforcing bar (rebar). possible.
Hot rolled bars Rebar strengthens buildings, Rebar
structures and roads.
Steel and You

Less than 3% of the workforce in developed
countries is employed in agriculture today.
However, to sustain the population 100 years
ago, over 75% of the workforce had to work
in the agriculture industry. Steel has made
the intensification of farming possible, and
will continue to do so in the future.

Fish farming City farming
Water mould is a problem in Transporting enough food to feed a
salmon fish farms because it New fuel-efficient city generates a lot of greenhouse gas
inhibits the hatching of salmon farm equipment emissions. One proposal to alleviate this
eggs. To combat this problem, Lighter and stronger problem is to build vertical farms in urban
a leading wire steel manufacturer steels are improving areas. The farm would look like a normal
in Japan has developed a new the fuel-efficiency office building.
antibacterial coating for use in of mechanical farm The difference is that edible plants could be
hatching nets. The new antibacterial equipment. grown indoors, in a controlled environment.
coating is applied to the wire before Existing steel construction techniques, as
it is woven. This ensures that bacteria used in skyscrapers around the world, could
are unable to breed at the points be used to build the farm. Once harvested,
Reducing the produce would be distributed to local
where the wire crosses. the need for
shops and restaurants with a minimum of
expensive veterinary
transport and CO2 emissions.
products and cleaning
agents has resulted in
cleaner waterways and
healthier fish.
Nuts and bolts
Rods The steel in tyres can be
recycled, while the rubber
is used to generate gas
Most tyres contain and electricity.
kilometres of steel wire Tyre wire
made from rods.
Steel and You

Automotive Reducing   the life cycle
impact of steel
To truly reduce a vehicle’s
The environmental impact of cars cannot footprint on the environment,
be ignored. The key is to use materials that consideration must also be
given to factors beyond fuel
are safe and gentle on the environment, light efficiency. All phases of a A recent study commissioned by
and economical during use, and easy to vehicle’s life, such as material IISI’s WorldAutoSteel group shows
that using materials other than
recycle at the end of their life. Steel offers all production, vehicle production,
steel may create more greenhouse
use and end-of-life recycling,
of these advantages. must be considered. gas emissions during the material
production phase than are saved in
the use phase.
The study compared conventional
steel vehicles to AHSS- and Steel in alternative powertrains
aluminium-intensive vehicles IISI’s automotive group,
over all phases of the WorldAutoSteel is embarking
vehicle’s life cycle. on a new research initiative that
will develop a steel auto body
AHSS concept that addresses alternative
Steel makes up a large powertrains such as fuel cells,
percentage of today’s vehicles. electric and hybrid systems. The goal
Advanced high-strength steels of the research is the demonstration
(AHSS) for body structures of light weight steel bodies for future
maintain good formability while vehicles that reduce greenhouse gas
providing high strength that emissions over its entire life cycle.
helps reduce the weight of the
body structure. Their use can
is predicted to
improve both fuel economy and be more than 50%
crashworthiness. of sheet steel in cars
in 2010, contributing a
5% reduction in total
greenhouse gas
emissions. White good High- strength steels Car
Hot and cold strip
decrease weight
and improve crash High- strength steels also
New galvanised steels resistance.
improve corrosion result in big reductions
resistance. in CO2 emissions
in the use phase.
Steel and You

Communication Telescopes
Steel is used extensively in radio telescopes.
It is used to form the dish, stand (as reinforcing bar
Steel is integral for many forms of human if the stand is made of concrete), and in the technical
communication. It is found in all types of parts of the telescope such as the actuators that capture
the signals from space. Steel makes it possible to
communication devices from the humble prefabricate the elements of a telescope, minimising build
ballpoint pen to the most advanced time at the site and disturbance to local flora and fauna.
communications satellite. The largest telescope array in the world is currently
under construction in Chile.
When complete,
the Atacama Large
Transmission towers
Array (ALMA)
Mobile telephone Radio, television, and mobile telephone
will contain
The hinge of this mobile transmission towers are usually built from
66 telescopes
telephone is made from steel. Steel provides the strength and
injection-moulded stainless flexibility that is required to support these
steel. Stainless steel is an structures. Steel also enables the tower
ideal material for the body to be constructed quickly and at minimum
of the phone as it can be cost. The tallest transmission tower in
recycled over and over again the world is the KVLY-TV mast in North
without loss of properties. It is Dakota, USA. The tower is 628.8 metres
also hard wearing, giving the tall and took 30 days to construct. The
phone a long life. tower services a broadcast area of almost
Over 80,000 square kilometers, an area similar
90% of
in size to the entire Czech Republic.
the materials in
mobile phones can be
recovered and used
as raw materials for
new products.
Rails Train rails

Improvements in casting
Longer rails mean fewer
enable longer, tougher rails.
joins and a smoother ride
for freight and people.
Steel and You

By-product reuse Gases
Gases produced during the
steelmaking process can also be
By-products from steelmaking are used
fully reused. They are used as a fuel
in roads, cement and concrete, fertiliser source for heating steel furnaces
and soil improvement agents, rock wool or as an energy source in power
for insulation, glass, ceramics, pigments, generation plants within a steelworks.
Electricity generated through
magnets, plastics (such as polystyrene), this method contributes
electrodes for aluminium and steel plants, to the energy
and cosmetics. efficiency of the

A key market for slag is the cement industry.
It is estimated that using granulated blast
furnace slag in the production of Portland
cement (a type of cement which is the basic
ingredient of concrete) reduces CO2 emissions Fertiliser
by 50%. Slag from a
In some countries, up to 80% of cement blast furnace is rich
contains granulated blast furnace slag. in phosphate, silicate,
Stones made from slag can be used in many magnesium, lime, manganese,
Roads and iron. The slag is ground very
applications. Homes built with slag-stones have Aggregates such as rock and gravel
often outlived the steel plants the slag came finely so that it can be spread
are used to construct the base of on fields using conventional
from. Another important application for these roads. Slag can easily be substituted
stones are in seawalls. The slag-stones are able fertiliser-distribution machinery.
for more conventional aggregates. Over time the slag decomposes,
to withstand the corrosive environment and Slag has good environmental
provide protection against high tides and floods. releasing nutrients to the plants.
compatibility, bonds well to bitumen
and has a micro-porous surface
structure. This guarantees excellent
tyre grip, even in extreme weather
Tube rounds conditions and after long exposure
to traffic.
Steel tubes come in many
sizes and transport all New steels resist
types of gases and liquids. corrosion from sour gases
in harsh environments.
Steel and You

Summary Credits

IISI has launched a new global steel sector approach for the collection and reporting of carbon Photography
dioxide emissions data by steel plants in all the major steel producing countries. The information Cover image courtesy of Salzgitter
collection will lead to benchmarking improvements based on actual performance data and then Pipes (page 11) courtesy ThyssenKrupp Acciai Speciali Terni
reporting and setting of commitments on a national or regional basis for implementation during Page 22: Georgsmarienhütte
the post-Kyoto period. The key advantage of the IISI approach is that it is supported by its Benteler Steel/Tube
members in both the developed and developing countries including China, which accounts Page 23: ThyssenKrupp VDM
for approximately 50% of total steelmaking CO2 emissions. Hüttenwerke Krupp Mannesmann
Other images by:
IISI uses an intensity-based approach to measurement of carbon dioxide emissions, taking into Joris Luyten
account the CO2 produced per tonne of steel rather than the total carbon dioxide emissions Alfons Condes
within a country or region. This globally consistent calculation methodology will allow production- Hugo de Wolf/36Clicks Creative Photography
normalised CO2 emission comparisons between regions that are not possible today. APEAL
Columbus Paradigm Institute
IISI has put in place an expert group to oversee the collection of emissions data. This task force
will develop a reporting methodology and specific approaches to reduce the steel industry’s
global CO2 emissions. Concept and copyright
International Iron and Steel Institute


International Iron and Steel Institute ( IISI )

Rue Colonel Bourg 120
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T: +32 2 702 89 00
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C303 Of fice Building
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T: +86 10 6464 6733
F: +86 10 6464 6744
E: china@
An overview of the steelmaking process
Blast Furnace Steelmaking Electric Arc Furnace Steelmaking

Iron Ore Iron Ore


Ladle Direct Coal
Ladle reduction
(Refining) (Refining)

Converter Electric arc furnace
Blast furnace (Primary steelmaking) (Primary steelmaking) Scrap
Coke (Ironmaking)

Continuous casting

Slab Billet Bloom

Hot and cold strip Plate Coils Hot rolled bars Rods Tube rounds Structural shapes Rails

Rebar Tyre wire - Wire Pipelines Structural profiles Train rails
Cars - White goods Ships - Welded pipes Nuts and Bolts

The process shown above is illustrative only and is not designed to show the steelmaking process in detail.
Not all steel plants produce all of the products shown in this diagram.