The North American Steel Industry Celebrates the Sustainability and Superior Recycling Attributes of Steel

Washington, D.C., April 22, 2013 – The 43-year-old annual Earth Day observance is an opportunity for individuals and organizations around the world to become “part of the solution” when it comes to protecting the planet. With its long-standing commitment to sustainable products and practices, the North American steel industry plays an integral role in making the planet safer, cleaner and greener.

“The steel industry has invested billions of dollars in new technologies over the past two decades that have reduced energy consumption and CO2 emissions while also increasing recycling,” said Thomas J. Gibson, president and CEO of the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI). “Steel’s recycling rate stands at 92 percent - meaning steel almost never goes to waste. Its ability to be continually repurposed and reused goes far beyond the capability of other materials.”

“Steel is integral to a modern society that enjoys a high quality of life, as we do in America. From the cars we drive to the bridges we cross, steel plays an essential role,” said Lawrence W. Kavanagh, president of the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI). “Steel also provides safe packaging for the foods we eat, is a central material in the appliances we use and is the framing structure for the buildings in which we live and work. All of these steels will be recycled and re-appear as even better products, ensuring a safe and secure future.”

Steel contributes in many ways to the well-being of people and the planet:

  • Steel construction products are represented in all major green building standards and rating programs, including the International Green Construction Code (IgCC), the National Green Building Standard (ICC-700) for residential buildings, ASHRAE Standard 189.1 for commercial construction, and the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program;
  • Lightly colored, more reflective metal roofs save up to 40 percent in cooling energy. Highly emissive metal roofs can lower urban air temperatures, resulting in reduced smog formation;
  • The installation of modular prefabricated short span steel bridges allows for faster construction, smaller crews, lighter equipment and less impact on the environment;
  • Steel utility distribution poles can increase the reliability of a utility’s distribution system while offering lower overall life cycle costs;
  • Highways constructed with steel-reinforced concrete pavement provide a rigid surface that reduces rolling resistance, resulting in better fuel economy for motorists;
  • The use of advanced high-strength steels (AHSS) can reduce a vehicle’s structural weight by as much as 39 percent and can cut total life cycle CO2 emissions by up to 70 percent more than any other automotive material;
  • AHSS, coupled with anticipated engine and powertrain advances, allows automakers to meet stringent future fuel economy regulations without use of greenhouse gas intensive alternative materials;
  • With its recycling, reusability and package integrity, steel is clearly the preferred material for the packaging industry. Steel cans are the most recycled package and are more energy efficient than their frozen counterparts; and
  • More than 1,500 food items come in steel cans, and more than 28,000 community recycling programs in North America collect steel cans for recycling.

“For the North American steel industry, sustainability is more than a goal, it’s an integral part of the way we do business,” Gibson said. “Companies that select steel for their products can be assured that they are making the environmentally responsible choice.”

The Steel Market Development Institute, a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute grows and maintains the use of steel through strategies that promote cost-effective solutions in the automotive, construction and container markets, as well as for new growth opportunities in emerging steel markets. For more news or information, visit or follow us on twitter at

Deanna Lorincz 
Senior Director, Communications
Steel Market Development Institute