Putting steel at the heart of resource efficiency

Posted on 15.06.15 by




Today’s world is an uncertain one with finite resources. At the same time these natural resources diminish, our global population continues to swell. The result is an ever-tightening squeeze on resources that’s forcing us to look long and hard at society’s legacy “take-make-dispose” model.

By Alan Knight, general manager, corporate responsibility, ArcelorMittal

16658407798_99a2b42572_nThat’s why we’re seeing a concerted, global effort to untangle economic growth from resource consumption. Bodies across government, business and industry are investigating how we can take a smarter approach, where as little as possible is wasted, and as much as possible is reused.

But to progress towards the efficient use of resources, we absolutely have to talk about steel. Steel is ubiquitous in our daily lives. From the buildings around us, to the cars we drive and the products and devices in our homes, steel truly is the fabric of life and plays an essential role in modern living. What’s more, as an infinitely recyclable material, it’s an integral part of the resource efficiency debate.

Yet there are notable commercial and technical challenges to overcome if steel is to become the champion of our sustainable future. To overcome these challenges, ArcelorMittal recently unveiled its 2014 sustainability report, “Steel: the sustainability challenge”, outlining in 10 outcomes what the company must achieve for steel to be recognised as one of the world’s most sustainable materials.

Kevin Dooley2With one of these outcomes dedicated to the efficient use of resources, the report calls for further innovation in our production processes, stakeholder engagement to drive-up recycling rates worldwide, and better education and awareness around cases where steel is better-placed than other materials to meet the demands of a resource-efficient economy.

Within this new sustainable development framework, ArcelorMittal is asking our company’s business units to explore how they can support a resource-efficient approach to steel production and use. Thankfully though, making efficient use of raw materials is already central to the success of our business.

Last year alone, our global R&D division worked on 22 sustainability projects aimed at using raw materials more efficiently – along with nine projects designed to increase the re-use of by-products.

Here’s a glance at some of our recent highlights:

> Scrap use. We recycled 31 million tonnes of scrap steel at our plants last year, preventing around 40 million tonnes of CO2 emissions by using scrap rather than raw materials.


> Data. We are working with a number of European universities to create a single authoritative source of recycling data on a country-by-country and product-by-product basis. This will help identify the obstacles to more recycling – both by market and by use.

> Modelling. At ArcelorMittal, we re-use the residues of the steel production process as far as we can. Our global R&D division has developed its own modelling tool to support this – “ROMEO” – to ensure a financial saving in one place doesn’t create a negative environmental impact elsewhere. ROMEO has been implemented at 11 of our steel plants, generating savings of around $40 million since its roll-out in 2009.

> Collaboration. R&D is working with the Worldsteel Association on a number of recycling projects. We are also collaborating with the automotive industry to investigate the value of dismantling vehicles before they are shredded.

The results speak for themselves: last year, 81 percent of our steel production residues were converted to by-products; we reused 18 million tonnes of slag internally; and 11 million tonnes of slag from our steelmaking processes were sold to the cement industry – avoiding more than 8 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. You can learn more about our progress in 2014 here.

But our journey is far from over:

> Learn more about the road ahead by reading ArcelorMittal’s 2014 sustainability report
> Learn more about using resources efficiently in our industry
> Take a closer look at ArcelorMittal’s approach to sustainability
> Catch-up on other posts in this series:
Products that create sustainable infrastructure
Pioneering products for sustainable lifestyles
Steel: the sustainability challenge
Safe, healthy, quality lives for our people and neighbours

Image credits: Nicolas Raymond, Flickr; GotCredit, Flickr; Kevin Dooley, Flickr