Most ’metals’ as we know them are not really pure metals at all. They are actually alloys – and again we may have learned that an alloy is a ‘mix of different metals’. Not entirely so. Alloys are often made up of a metal – called the base or the parent metal, mixed with a nonmetal element. So, a better definition of an alloy is a material made up of at least two different elements – one of which would be metal. The most well-known alloy is steel, which is really just iron with a tiny 0.5 – 1.5 % of carbon as its supplemental element, changing it from iron to ‘steel’. There are then, in fact, four types of steel – but we digress, that’s another discussion. Let’s weigh the environmental friendliness of steel per se.
First, now that we understand that steel is basically 99% iron, it can take its place among the naturally occurring metals found right here in our environment – the earth. Ok, there is carbon dioxide waste formed in the adding the miniscule amount of carbon, but understandably, not enough to touch sides in the great debate. Strike one.
Slag, what about the slag, you say. And yes, we admit, the biggest bi-product of steel is a weird, metallic, rock-like substance they call slag. Slag is almost entirely recycled, or more correctly, re-purposed today. It is sold to construction companies where is it used in cement. How environmentally friendly can you get? Strike two.
Enormous volumes of water are used in steel manufacturing its true, and the water does become filled with particles but the good news is that simple filtration removes that and a whopping 98% of the water is rendered re-usable. Strike three.
Be prepared to hear some mind-blowing environmentally friendly information about steel:
Steel has a unique magnetic property, making it a synch to remove from waste streams. Steel rightfully joins its pure parent-metal, iron, in being the most recycled material in the world! Strike four.
Finally, to really cover all bases, industry specialists have and are further reducing the carbon and dust emissions renowned in steel manufacture, so we won’t call a strike five quite yet. Suffice to say though, that Steel is pretty easy on the planet and more than qualifies as ‘environmentally friendly’!