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Life Cycle Analysis and recycling

The environment a priority focus from the R&D stage onward

Protecting the environment is a key challenge of our time and as the world's leading steel company, ArcelorMittal is committed to helping develop sustainable solutions. The Group's research centers have set up dedicated Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) and recycling units to assess the impact of new products on the environment at the design stage (by means of LCA) and at end-of-life recovery and disposal (by validating their recyclability).

Life Cycle Analysis

This standardized (ISO 14040) method is used to determine the potential impact of a product on the environment throughout its entire life cycle, i.e. from the extraction of the raw materials needed to produce it (ore, oil, etc.) to its production, utilization and end-of-life disposal (recycling, incineration, etc.).

 

The entire life cycle of steel must be considered in the automotive sector since:    

  • the utilization phase accounts for some 80% of a vehicle's overall environmental impact;
  • steel often has an impact that is far smaller than that of its competitors in the production phase;
  • steel's recyclability is a major advantage in end-of-life vehicle regulations.

An LCA study is carried out in four phases:

  1. Definition of objectives and of the system studied: observation of the life cycle in order to model it and definition of the functional unit (quantity of product studied = 1 m2 of roofing, 100 beverage cans, vehicle traveling 200,000 km, etc.);
  2. Inventory of flows: list of all the inputs and outputs of the system (quantity of each material needed, emissions, etc.);
  3. Assessment of impacts: use of inventory data to calculate environmental impact in terms of: global warming, natural resources, acidification, etc.;
  4. Interpretation: proposal of alternative production processes to reduce impact. Comparison of different products to support the choice of the product that best protects the environment.

ArcelorMittal and a variety of consortia have carried out studies that have demonstrated the competitive advantages of steel in this area.

End-of-life vehicle recycling

Directive 2000/53/EC of the European Parliament and the Council of 18 September 2000 on end-of-life vehicles was drawn up to limit or prohibit the presence in vehicles of dangerous substances such as lead, cadmium, chromium IV and mercury, in order to reduce the environmental impact of vehicles throughout their lives. It also defines target recycling and waste-to-energy rates with the goal of reducing as far as possible the ultimate waste from of end-of-life vehicles that is landfilled. In 2006, the target was recycling of at least 80% of materials in addition to a maximum 5% waste-to-energy rate to ensure that a maximum of 15% of the average mass of end-of-life vehicles is landfilled. In 2015, these objectives will increase to 85% materials recycling, 10% waste-to-energy and only 5% landfilled.

 

A large number of vehicle shredding and shredded scrap characterization tests have shown that the ferrous fraction of vehicles is both 100% recyclable and 100% recycled. To ensure that this recycling is sustainable, the ArcelorMittal Group undertakes to verify that all new steels developed for automotive production are easy to recover and recycle. In this spirit, a research team at the ArcelorMittal Research Center in Maizières-les-Metz has developed a methodology making it possible for compliance with the specifications of the European Directive described above to be validated at the time new steels are developed (see diagram below).

 

In partnership with professional scrap processors, the ArcelorMittal Recycling R&D team offers solutions for easily recovering the ferrous fraction generated by their processes, including, importantly, non-magnetic steels. The new steels offered by ArcelorMittal are also subjected to the conventional treatment applied to end-of-life capital goods in which they are used. For example, shredding and sorting tests are carried out in industrial facilities and the scrap recovered is then melted in pilot furnaces so as to determine its meltability and verify that scrap melting does not impact the environment.

 

The ArcelorMittal Group is thus able to provide its customers with a guarantee of sustainable recycling of all the steels offered.

Flowchart - Compliance of new steels with Directive 2000/53/EC

Steel is an environmentally-friendly material in use and is virtually infinitely recyclable.

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