Enabling steel’s circular economy potential
Michal Drewniok discusses the principles of reusing steel elements and encourages structural engineers to consider this option over designing with new material.
Half of all steel is used in construction and infrastructure, responsible for almost 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Over the past two decades, global steel production has doubled, but with growing pressure on the construction industry to be more resource efficient and reduce waste, dramatic changes need to be made to the way we use this important material.
Steel has high recycling potential. When produced in an electric arc furnace (EAF) using recycled scrap (secondary steel production), it offers approx. 50% energy savings and 75% carbon savings over primary production from iron ore in a basic oxygen furnace (BOF). Nevertheless, to get even greater carbon reduction, reprocessing should be limited only to the products that cannot be reused directly (e.g. reinforcing steel recovered after demolition).
This article outlines ways in which practising structural engineers can make better use of the circular economy potential of structural steel in the UK. The principles discussed also apply internationally.