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The circular economy

A sustainable circular economy is one in which resources remain in use for as long as possible. As a permanent material, steel is fundamental to achieving a circular economy.

Not only do steel parts remain durable for longer, even in hard wearing applications, it is easy to reduce their weight using advanced high strength steels (AHSS). And steel’s durability ensures components can be effectively reused, remanufactured, or recycled indefinitely.

In some regions of the world, governments are planning actions to help ‘close the loop’ of product lifecycles. The goal of these initiatives is to ensure maximum value is extracted from raw materials, products, and waste. They hope to achieve the goal by promoting recycling and re-use of materials to create benefits for both the environment and the economy.

© WorldSteel

The 4 Rs

A truly circular economy embraces four principles which are widely referred to as the ‘4 Rs’:

  • Reduce: The amount of material, energy, and other resources needed to make a product should be reduced to the absolute minimum. AHSS are ideally positioned as they offer carmakers the highest strength using the smallest amount of material possible. Technologies such as laser welded blanks (LWB) maximize the use of the material by ensuring the right steel is in the right place.
  • Reuse: By reusing an object or material without significant alteration, carmakers can cut material, energy, and resource use. For reuse to be successful, it needs to be considered during the design of the initial object. Steel’s durability makes it an ideal solution for parts designed for reuse.
  • Remanufacture: The process of restoring durable steel products to as-new condition. The automotive sector already has a huge remanufacturing sector which helps to prolong the use phase of a vehicle’s life for as long as possible to make maximum use of the resources it contains. Steel is relatively easy to work with, which makes the remanufacture of steel parts affordable.
  • Recycle: When reuse and remanufacturing are no longer possible, it should be possible to recycle the product to create a new object. Today’s steel industry already embraces recycling and all available scrap is transformed into new steel.
© WorldSteel

Steel will be the backbone of the future circular economy due to its:

  • Recyclability: Steel is endlessly recyclable without loss of properties. That’s why steel has been designated as a permanent material by regulators such as the European Union.
  • Reusability: If designed correctly, steel components are easy to reuse or remanufacture to ensure maximum value is extracted from them.
  • Reduction in resource use: The advanced high strength steels available today ensure that less steel is required in many automotive applications – reducing the need for new steel to be produced from raw materials.

 

Opinion: Steel and the circular economy - building a better life for all

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