Monday, October 29, 1990

Steel: The Recycled Material

Because recycling is a cycle, it’s hard to say where it starts or ends. For consumers, the cycle now begins in the grocery store. It is here where they acquire the packaging that they ultimately recycle. And while a person may shop with an idea of what type of product to buy, sometimes the purchase depends on availability, price, or quantity.

Today, a new factor affects consumer decision-making: Is this package recyclable?

When a community has a recycling program, we assume that residents know what packages to recycle - and consumer surveys indicate that many selectively shop for these packages. But purchases may be more environmentally responsive if shoppers’ habits are reinforced through recycling messages on packaging.

And retailers can help by promoting environmental shopping. Color coding on shelves to point out recyclable products, or periodic promotions of products in recyclable packaging can be effective. The variety of products that are canned in steel should be included in environmental awareness programs. Promoting recycling makes good environmental and
business sense. Retail locations are the first point of contact between the consumer and the package - retailers can make this contact an environmental opportunity.

Recycling messages also help when the products go home with the shopper. After a package is used, should there be any temptation to toss it away, a recycling message may redirect the package to the recycling bin.

For those areas without recycling programs, the message serves another purpose. It can motivate residents to action. With the publicity that solid waste and recycling issues receive, citizens know they are responsible for the waste they create. And they know that they need community cooperation to initiate recycling programs.

This section of The Recycling Magnet describes the efforts of environmentally conscious companies toward spreading the word about the 100% recyclable steel can, as well as other recyclable packaging. These companies, and others like them, should be encouraged to continue their efforts. Their role in recycling promotion helps build the cooperative efforts necessary to ensure the growth of recycling programs across the country.

Wednesday, October 17, 1990

Steel Recycling And Recycled Content

There are two fundamental ways to make steel today. One, through which about 60% of steel products are made - including steel cans - is the basic oxygen furnace process. Molten iron is blended with 20-30% scrap steel, resulting in products containing an average of 25% recycled steel.

The other method, the electric arc furnace process, through which about 40% of the nation’s steel is made, uses virtually 100% scrap in the steelmaking process. All products produced in electric arc furnaces therefore contain 100% recycled steel.

The steelmaking process used depends on end-product specifications, scrap economics and availability, and other productivity factors. The specifications for a steel can, for example, are met by creating steel sheet from the basic oxygen furnace process.

The length of a product’s life - regardless of the process - depends on many factors, one of which is its intended end use. A construction beam for an office building, for instance, will have a much longer life than a food can. Food cans are likely to be used more quickly, wile a construction beam remains in a kind of living inventory for recycling. Though the food can is designed for an extensive shelf life, realistically, it will not remain in active use for as ling.

Each steel product, however, should ultimately be recycled. And in fact, many will be recycled together. Some will already have 25% recycled content and some, 100%. Steel products recycled together at a mill will be of various ages, from less than one year to over 50 years. Today’s new steel products will therefore have either a 25% or 100% recycled content, depending on the steelmaking process. That content will be a blend of steel of various ages with varied initial
recycled content - steel that has already been recycled several times.

In spite of continuous recycling, the quality of the end product is maintained, emphasizing steel’s remarkable endurance and malleability. So the industry’s overall recycling rate - the highest of any material - reflects a long history of steel recycling and emphasizes the total environmental compatibility of today’s steel products.

Tuesday, October 2, 1990

How to Recycle Steel Food Cans

From soups to condiments, fruits and vegetables, pet foods, canned meats and snacks, steel cans bring food to America’s homes. When their use as containers is complete, steel cans serve as an abundant scrap resource for the steel industry.

Often referred to as “tin” cans, steel food cans are simple to recycle. They only need to be rinsed. And this may be done without wasting water, by rinsing then in left over dishwater after a washing, or by placing them in available dishwasher space. Label removal and flattening are optional for recycling, but it is suggested that labels be removed for dishwasher rinsing.

The rinsed can should be placed in the recycling bin. The lid removed to empty the contents should also be recycled. It can be tucked back into the bottom of the can, or one food can may be used to hold all lids. When this can is full, the edges should be crimped to hold the lids in, and it should be put in the recycling bin.

Steel food cans are recyclable, through any program a community selects, and the steel industry wants them back to use as scrap for making new steel products.