Scrap metal is a fundamental raw material in steel production and makes a significant contribution to reducing emissions. This is the result of the study »Scrap bonus. External costs and fairer competition in steel production global value chains«, compiled by the Center for Economics of Materials CEM on behalf of the Federal Association of German Steel Recycling and Disposal Companies BDSV. According to the report, the use of steel scrap in Europe could reduce the costs of climate change by up to 20 billion euros a year.

© Birgit Brügmann / Oryx Stainless
The use of high-value steel scrap ensures the economic and ecological sustainability of steel production.

The use of scrap steel instead of iron ore to manufacture steel reduces CO2 emissions. Other environmental damage such as the acidification of water bodies, summer smog or eutrophication are reduced through the use of scrap. In order to illustrate these savings the indicator »scrap bonus« was introduced for the study. It indicates the climate and environmental costs that can be avoided through the use of one tonne of scrap in steel production.  

The scientists came to the conclusion that by using one tonne of recycled stainless steel scrap the steel industry could save 4.3 tonnes of CO2 when producing steel. In the case of carbon steel and assuming the use of one tonne of steel scrap, the savings attained average 1.67 tonnes of CO2. This means that if one tonne of carbon steel scrap is used as an input material rather than iron ore, the amount of CO2 saved is equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by an average car with a gasoline engine during a journey of around 9000 km. According to the research team, the »scrap bonus« lies between 79 and 213 euros per tonne of carbon steel scrap, rising to as much as 158 – 502 euros per tonne in the case of stainless steel scrap.

The avoidable emissions were calculated in the study on the basis of lifecycle analyses, which examine the generation of emissions during the production of steel right along the value creation chain. This involves performing a rigorous assessment of the lifecycle of the materials used from the extraction, manufacture and use of the raw materials, the use of energy sources right down to the utilization of residual materials.

»The study makes a major contribution to raising the awareness of the importance of scrap as a raw material for steel production. Steel recycling is an integral part of a circular economy. This means that the use of high-value scrap represents an example of economically and ecologically sustainable steel production. This in turn has an important leverage effect with regard to the efficient use of materials and raw materials by the clients we advise«, says Dr. Frank Pothen, Head of the team Economic Modeling at the CEM and the study’s lead author.

»The results of the study underline the importance of steel recycling and show how it can be quantitatively and qualitatively strengthened, above all through research and development, with a focus on medium-sized enterprises. Additional support and political measures in this area can make an efficient contribution to climate protection while at the same time improving the competitiveness of the steel and steel recycling industries. For us ‘scrap bonus’ is a bonus for scrap«, said BDSV President Andreas Schwenter coinciding with the study’s publication.