Recycling Steel


Recycling Steel


giro-potsThe process of recycling steel has been happening for thousands of years. It has long been a common practice to melt pots, swords, and other metals that had served their purpose. These were turned into coins, statues, and other necessities. A major campaign in both World War efforts featured organized metal drives so that resources could be reused to make planes, ships, and machinery. In other words, people understood the importance of recycling long before the green movement in the 1970s.

Steel is an alloy made up of two or more elements, one of which is always iron. In order to combine these into steel, temperatures exceeding 1370* Celsius are required. Steel is still the most recycled material on the planet, more than all other materials combined. Its properties allow it to be continually recycled with no degradation to its performance.
The steel industry has been recycling for more than 150 years. It is cheaper to recycle steel than to mine ore and manipulate it to form new steel. Recycling steel has drastically reduced energy requirements compared with mining and refining iron ore. The energy saved has reduced the annual energy consumption of the industry by approximately 75%, enough to power 18 million homes a year.

Since 2005, GIRO has contracted with Schnitzer Metal to provide us with a 30 ft. metal bin that offers islanders an invaluable service that lets you drop off a wide variety of metal items: from small household appliances like toaster ovens, vacuum cleaners, and coffee pots, to larger items like fridges, freezers, hot water tanks, and BBQs. All these items contain at least 10% steel, the minimum required for recycling. Schnitzer then removes the bin and replaces it with an empty one. This transfer happens roughly every ten days, indicating the volume of steel that is being dropped off at GIRO.
Schnitzer then drains the freon from the fridges and freezers, before shredding the contents with denser steel like cars and old machinery, to produce an acceptable density. This arrangement provides an excellent service, ensuring that the steel is being recycled and not dumped into the woods or landfill. It also saves islanders a ferry ride to town, and a further cost of $25 to drop off large appliances at other locations.

So how does this relate to the big picture globally? Over the last thirty years China has undergone massive industrialization using a large majority of the world’s scrap steel. At the peak in the market, we were getting $120 per metric ton (pmt). The average over the last 10 years has been between $55 to $85 per metric ton.
However, now China is generating enough of its own scrap that they are no longer buying ours. The price has dropped to $25 pmt. Any scrap that would normally be shipped to Asia is now accumulating domestically, creating a glut in the market which is driving the price down. Schnitzer is actively looking for new markets globally, but for now steel prices are at their lowest in a very long time.

The income generated from our metal bin helps to fund other areas of our operation that make no return. We will continue to offer this valuable service, but we must increase our drop-off fee for large appliances from $5 to $15. This fee continues to be a great deal, as the standard charge at other locations is $25. Please keep bringing us your used steel. Every item that gets recycled makes a difference to the planet.

If you have any questions about steel or any of the services that GIRO offers, please pay us a visit on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The GIRO team will be happy to help you.

Michelle MacEwen
General Manager



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