Australian Steel’s Role in a Sustainable World – Part One

A report produced by the Australian Steel Institute has provided an in-depth look into the role Australian steel plays in the world’s efforts to become more sustainable. The discovery of iron and its later refinement to steel was a significant game changer for the advancement of civilisation. Throughout the Iron Age in which metal began to replace bronze in applications such as tools and weaponry, right through to the Industrial Revolution which re-defined steel manufacturing processes via special-purpose machinery, factories and mass production.

Everywhere you look, steel reigns as the material of choice. From large items like ships, aeroplanes and heavy machinery to everyday items such as food cans, automobiles, kitchen appliances, and even the foil wrapper on your yoghurt tub.

Despite its global usage, steel is a unique material that can contribute towards a sustainable life on our planet. In this two-part series, we’ll discuss the main findings from the Australian Steel Institute Report and look at the things Australian steel manufacturers are doing to encourage steel sustainability.

Australian Steel Industry at a glance

Over 1.3 billion tonnes of steel are produced and consumed annually, with this number growing every year as large economies such as India and China continue to expand. In comparison, the Australian steel industry produces eight million tonnes of steel per annum. The industry includes Australian steel distributors, steelmakers and manufacturers. There are currently 91,000 people employed within the steel industry and an annual turnover of $29 billion.

The abundance of steels ingredients

The primary ingredient in steel is Iron Ore, an abundant mineral found under the earth’s crust, which when combined with carbon and other elements such as manganese, niobium or vanadium, create the strong material.  According to the World Steel Association, there are global reserves of 800 billion tonnes or approximately 400 years supply at current usage. While it might not make a difference in our lifetime, 400 years is not very long in Earth years, nor is the expansion of mining ideal for greenhouse emissions.

Fortunately, steel is one of the rare materials that can be melted down and repurposed without losing its properties. The World Steel Association reported back in 2007 that roughly 36% of the world steel production is from recycled material. To help you visualise this, ShapeCUT’s valued supplier OneSteel collects and trades two million tonnes of scrap metal per year. The number of vehicles they recycle every month is equivalent in length to a traffic jam spanning 60 kilometres long.

This number is a great start to edging closer to a sustainable world, however there is the an energy and greenhouse gas emission issue plaguing many steel plants, who are supposed to be ‘green’.

In the final instalment of our two-part series on Australian steel and sustainability we’ll look at what the steel industry is doing to reducing costs and emissions, while improving the environment.

ShapeCUT is Australia’s leading profile steel cutting specialist. Our expert steel design cutting team are responsible for some of Australia’s biggest projects. To check out what ShapeCUT can do for you, check out our oxy cutting and high definition plasma cutting services or get in contact with the team today.