Steel is the World's Most Recycled Material

Annual Overall Steel Recycling Rate

Note: Annual Steel Recycling Rate runs 18 months behind due
to industry and governmental reporting.

Steel is the most recycled material on the planet, more than all other materials combined. The recycling chart below reveals the extremely high overall recycling rate for steel, which in 2008, stood at over 83 percent.

The amazing metallurgical properties of steel allow it to be recycled continually with no degradation in performance, and from one product to another.

The sources for steel scrap are plentiful, but are classified into three main categories: home scrap, prompt scrap and obsolete scrap.

Home scrap is the scrap that is produced from within the mill itself and is available within weeks. Prompt scrap is scrap that it is produced from manufacturing products from steel, and is available within months. Obsolete scrap is scrap produced from steel products at the end of their lives and it may be decades before this scrap is available (example: The Golden Gate Bridge).

Even while two out of every three tons of new steel are produced from old steel, it is still necessary to continue to use some quantities of virgin materials. This is true because many steel products remain in service as durable goods for decades at a time and demand for steel around the world continues to grow.

Beyond the steel scrap itself, the steel industry has long recycled its by-products: mill scale, steelmaking slags, water and processing liquids. Likewise, steelmaking dusts and sludges are processed so that other metals, such as zinc, can be recovered and resused.

Steel is the engine that drives the recycling of many consumer goods as can be seen by the nearly 100 percent recycling rate of automobiles, the more than 80 percent recycling rate of appliances and the more than 60 percent recycling rate of steel packaging. For more information on the industry’s steel recycling accomplishments, visit the Steel Recycling Institute website at

Or, for more information on the importance of Reducing, Reusing and Recycling, read this case history from WorldSteel.