Steel has a very unique place in the global economy. It can be found everywhere from household goods, automotive production, roads and construction. Steel, however, is also responsible for one of the largest amounts of municipal solid waste, or MSW, and industrial waste. It is also one of the easiest materials to recycle, and has been since it’s very early adoption.
Solid waste is an essential by-product of the production of steel and iron. Unfortunately, due to the huge amounts of steel produced each year, the solid wastes resulting from the refining process results in significant environmental pollution. In the past, the grime and sludge produced by steel plants went by the name of ‘waste’. However, in the modern era, this ‘waste’ is now referred to as a ‘by-product’ as there are renewed efforts to use and recycle them.
In 2010 in the United States alone, there were almost 2.7 million tonnes of Municipal Solid Waste and up to 14 million tonnes ferrous materials.
This waste cause severe health problems and has a long-term negative impact on our environment. This is why it is important that the manufacturers of steel find safer ways to dispose of and recycle what by-products they can.
What Methods Are Employed By The Steel industry to Dispose of Waste
There are various ways to dispose of the waste produced during the steel production process. One of the key policies employed by various steel manufacturers is that of Recycle, Reduce and Reuse. Many companies are making a considerable effort to turn these by-products into useful products to generate more capital. This situation is a win-win for the environment, the local community and the steel companies.
The ash produced from burning by-products can be use for making bricks, road construction, cement manufacturing and even filling landfills. Take for example the Tata Steel company in India. Tata Steel is one of the world’s largest steel companies. It is located in Mumbai but has branches across the glove and delivered 27.5 million tonnes of steel in the 2017 financial year alone.
Tata steel reuse or recycle 89.6% if their solid waste produced in their steel works, and find inventive ways to dispose of the other remaining amount. For example, in 2008, they disposed of roughly 612,300 tonnes by using it fill low-lying areas for road construction around Jamshedpur.
Tangshan Iron and Steel Group Company Limited, or Tangsteel for short, was founded in 1943. Recently they have put a considerable effort into recycling the huge amounts of steel waste being produced their plants. In 2011 they managed to reduce their dust emissions by 1600 tons in a year, and reduce sulfur-dioxide by almost 3000 tonnes.
Disposal is one method of safely handling steel by-products, however many are opting for recycling what they can. The recycling process involves taking old by-products and finding useful ways to create new materials, thus reducing the consumption of raw materials. Reducing is another way that the impact of steel production on the environment can be reduced. Examples of practices that impact the environment may be incineration and landfilling. Each of these have a direct impact on the air and water in local areas.
Impact of the Iron and Steel Industry on the Environment
The Iron and Steel manufacturing industry has massive impact of the environment. Steel requires significant mining and waste disposal. The resulting pollutants and by-products put a significant strain on the health of locals and to the environment as whole.
Despite this, there is ongoing collaboration between steel companies and environmental organisations to reduce, reuse and recycle in an effort to make the steel industry more sustainable. China is the world’s largest producer of steel and has introduced several measures to reduce their impact on the environment. These measures are slowly being introduced around the globe.
Recycling methods have been in place for over 150 years. In the United States, the steel industry requires that products contain at least 25-100% recycled steel. This not only makes sense from an environmental stand point, but from a financial one too. It is much cheaper to recycle steel than it is mine for more. By avoiding mining, steel producers are also able to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases they are emitting.
New technology is being developed to make steel production, cleaner, safer and more environmentally friendly. As we continue to move towards the future, many companies are beginning to support these sustainable practices at a board level as opposed to some fringe groups within the organisation.