Value of Steel
Iron makes up approximately 30% of the Earth’s mass. Because of its rich reserves, steel can be mass produced at very low cost. Compared to other materials, the environmental impact of its production is extremely low and it has excellent recyclability. Steel can be recycled repeatedly and reborn as various products (closed-loop recycling) with little or no environmental impact, contributing to the sustainable growth of our society.
Life Cycle Assessment of Steel
Steel’s excellent recyclability contributes to the creation of a sophisticated value chain encompassing three components: Produce, Use, and Recycle. Steel products can be repeatedly reborn as various products. It is therefore important that the environmental impact of steel be assessed across its entire life cycle, including at the recycling stage. JFE Steel participates as a key member in an initiative led by the Japan Iron and Steel Federation (JISF) to quantify the environmental impact of the entire life cycle of steel products and developed the ISO/JIS standard* calculation methodology. Corresponding to this standard, materials with higher recyclability are found to have lower environmental impact such as on global warming.
*ISO 20915: Life cycle inventory calculation methodology for steel products (2018.11)
JIS Q 20915: Life cycle inventory calculation methodology for steel products (2019.6)
ProduceHigh Economic Efficiency and Low Environmental Impact
Earth, a Planet of Iron (Abundant Resources)
As much as 85% of the Earth’s metal resources are iron ore (190 billion tonnes).
Source: Mineral Commodity Summaries (2016)
Recoverable Reserves of Iron Ore on the Earth
Mass Production at Low Cost
Iron is a material with rich reserves and a long history of development. It can be mass produced at reasonable price and supplied stably, thereby contribute to the sustainable growth of society.
Global Demand (2017)
Created by JFE Holdings with documents from Mizuho Bank Industry Research Division and economic forecasts by Fuji keizai Co., Ltd
Research: JFE Holdings
* Cost of producing one unite weight of iron is indexed at 1 for comparison with other materials.
Extremely Low Environmental Impact at the Manufacturing Stage when Compared to Other Materials
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of steel at the manufacturing stage*1 is 1/5 to 1/9 of that of aluminum and approximately 1/11 of that of carbon fiber.
GHG Emissions at the Manufacturing Stage *2
Source: Steel Recycling Institute
*1 From mining raw materials to factory shipment.
*2 Comparison with other materials’ GHG emissions per unit weight, with steel as 1.
Japan’s Steel Industry Keeps the Top Energy Efficiency in the World
Japan’s steel industry (converter steel) produces steel with the lowest environmental impact compared to other major countries. This is a result of its longstanding efforts toward environmental conservation, including developing and spreading the use of energy-saving technologies.
World's Quotient, with Japan as 100 (2015)
Source: Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth (RITE)
UseFoundation of Daily Life and Society
The Potential to Grow on a Global Scale
Global average of annual consumption of steel is approximately 220 kg per capita. The long-term global demand for steel is expected to keep growing alongside the economic development of emerging countries.
Trends in Annual Steel Consumption per Capita by Country (kg/person/year)
Source: World Steel Association
Potential for Evolution
Steel can be elongated two to three times more than aluminum at the same rigidity and is three to five times stronger at the same extended rate, making it the optimal material for new world-class structures such as TOKYO SKYTREE. And yet there is still potential for further evolution. The emerging needs of society will advance the development of steel and contribute to a productive future.
Comparison of Strength and Elongation between Steel, Aluminum, and Carbon Fiber
Research: JFE Holdings
Steel is a highly recyclable material that can be easily recovered and separated using magnets. It can be efficiently recovered, separated, and recycled into high-quality, high-functioning products over and over again through closed-loop recycling.
Closed-loop Recycling of Steel
Steel can be recycled a number of times as a raw material for steel products while retaining its original properties.
Closed-loop recycling is superior to open-loop recycling* in terms of sustainability, because closed-loop recycling reduces the consumption of natural resources, as well as the amount of environmentally hazardous substances and wastes.
* In open-loop recycling, the material recycling process involves two types of finite recycling which are thermal recycling and cascade recycling. Thermal recycling means that heat generated by incineration is recovered while cascade recycling indicates recycling the material accompanied by the degradation or alteration of the material's properties.