In an era in which waste recovery, recycling, and recycled content are high on society’s agenda, improvement of recycling performance is on the radar screens of almost every product manufacturer. Increased impetus for more extensive recycling is the focus of an emerging environmental initiative to decouple increasing consumption from needs for additional resource extraction. A central goal is to reduce environmental impacts of consumption.
To achieve improvement in recycling rates first requires an understanding of what recycling statistics mean and current recovery and recycling rates. In this report we examine recycling rates for steel, the metal used in 8-9 times greater quantity than all other metals combined. We found that commonly used definitions of recycling serve to obscure actual recovery and recycling performance, that there are considerable losses of material with each use cycle, and that the often cited claim that steel is continuously recyclable without loss of quality is not true. We also found a much greater potential for steel recovery and recycling than is currently being realized.