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Steel packaging and the circular economy


Steel for packaging offers significant advantages in holistic, sustainable approach to resource optimisation.

The new European Commission, appointed in 2014, is currently examining options to introduce the concept of a circular economy into existing and future European legislation. If adopted, the proposal will affect a number of existing European regulations including the Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste (94/62/EC). The change to a circular economy is one that ArcelorMittal supports and which is likely to see steel promoted as an integral part of a more sustainable approach to packaging.

A circular economy is one which aims to drive the optimal use of resources. It goes further than traditional sustainability models as a circular economy also requires the preservation of financial, manufacturing, human, social and natural capital.

This is achieved by creating products which are designed to use the minimum of resources and to be reused, remanufactured or recycled at the end of their life. While the packaging industry will need to adapt, steel for packaging already offers many of the attributes required in a circular economy.

Steel for packaging – already part of the circular economy.

Waste prevention and eco-design are already hallmarks in the production of steel for packaging. Over the past 30 years, the thickness of steel for packaging has been reduced by 40% by optimising its properties, but without changing its functionality. Because of the advances that have been made, steel packaging still satisfies consumer and manufacturer demands for strong, attractive, and recyclable packaging solutions. Steel is still the most recycled packaging material in Europe. Around 75% of all steel for packaging is collected and recycled to create new steels. Unlike other materials, all steel can be recycled infinitely, without losing any of its intrinsic properties. Whatever the origin of the scrap, the steel recycling loop produces new steels which can be used in any market: automotive, appliance, construction, or packaging. This is a major contribution to the responsible management of resources.

Recycling steel packaging reduces resource use

Steel has been designated a permanent material by a number of institutions including the EU. Around 80 to 90% of all the steel ever produced is still in use today. Recycling of one tonne of scrap steel conserves more than twice that amount of resources including: • 1.5 tonnes of iron ore • 0.65 tonnes of coal • 0.3 tonnes of limestone A tonne of recycled steel reduces energy use by around 70% compared to producing steel from raw materials. Steel recycling also reduces the environmental impact of steelmaking. Creating one tonne of steel from recycled sources reduces CO2 – equivalent emissions by 1.5 tonnes. The steel industry as a whole has continued to improve its environmental performance. Between 2010 and 2012, greenhouse gas emissions from the steel industry were reduced by 9% in Europe. In the same timeframe, acidification and eutrophication (an excessive amount of nutrients in water) from steelmaking have also been reduced by 6% and 11% respectively. The concept of a circular economy is also reflected in the creation of social and economic models which drive the recycling of steel for packaging. Typically steel packaging recycling happens at the local level using waste generated in the local or regional area.

ArcelorMittal, a major player in the circular economy

Establishing a circular economy for the packaging industry is not just about recycling. It requires steelmakers, canmakers and fillers to consider all stages of the packaging’s life cycle. ArcelorMittal actively contributes to creating a circular economy, and industrial ecology forms an integral part of our policy. In France, for example, ArcelorMittal has a long history of © Apeal © Apeal P

This article is reproduced from Update, ArcelorMittal Europe – Flat Products Client magazine | May 2015. http://flateurope.arcelormittal.com/repository2/About/EN_ArcelorMittal_Update_Magazine_May15.pdf

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