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The ArcelorMittal Orbit showcases “a very versatile metal”

Made of steel

Steelmaking, traditionally classed as one of the “heavy industries”, has come a long way from its beginnings. ArcelorMittal is at the forefront of developing lighter-weight and more sustainable steels. It is also one of the largest steel recyclers in the world. That is why it has been able to meet and exceed the Olympic Delivery Authority’s rules on sustainability, which require at least a quarter of the materials used for all buildings in the Olympic Park to be recycled.

Sixty per cent of the ArcelorMittal Orbit is made of recycled steel, produced by ArcelorMittal’s steel plant in Esch Belval, Luxembourg. We spoke to Jean-Michel Dengler, CEO of the plant, about the recycling process.

How has ArcelorMittal’s steel plant at Esch Belval in Luxembourg helped to build the ArcelorMittal Orbit?

Our plant has provided the steel for part of the stairwell and the viewing platforms, which we produced in our medium section mill. We used recycled steel. Sixty per cent of the total structure is made from recycled steel – the rest is made from virgin steel.

The ArcelorMittal Orbit is a 114.5m-tall looping lattice of tubular steel. Why do you think steel was the right material for this job?

I think the designers intended to build a structure that was light and airy – steel can combine those qualities with strength. We can heat roll it into basic shapes, which we can bend and give other forms to.

What are the sources of the recycled steel used to construct the ArcelorMittal Orbit?

We’ve used recycled steel from a mix of sources – the automotive industry, demolitions, everything is present. In the mix we have been able to achieve the technical properties the designers asked for. That includes a 355-yield strength, which can withstand a lot of weight, and steel that can behave the same at temperatures of -20C.

ArcelorMittal is the largest recycler of scrap steel in the world. Can you tell us more about the company’s recycling programme?

ArcelorMittal is developing its mining activities in order to extract the right amount of minerals or iron ore for our blast furnaces so that we can produce the steel needed for automotive or other applications that require high-performing materials. On the other hand, we have developed quite a large network of purchasing agencies for all our plants, which are always in contact with scrap recyclers. We work closely with these recyclers in order to improve the quality of scrap that they are providing us with. For example, many objects for recycling will contain metals apart from steel – such as copper. We advise our recyclers to extract these metals so that the recycled steel will be purer.

The sculpture is a showcase for recycled steel. What do you think of it?

In my opinion it’s a piece of art that combines airiness and lightness – so that wind can go through and sun can shine through – with strength. It shows very well what extraordinary structures can be made out of steel.

The ArcelorMittal Orbit’s creators describe the structure as their interpretation of a tower for the 21st century. What message do you hope the ArcelorMittal Orbit will send out about steel as a material for the 21st century?

Steel was always considered a heavy metal coming out of a heavy industry – at least that was the name the steel industry had in continental Europe. But designers and metallurgists were able to develop it in time into a very versatile metal that combines strength with more and more lightweight structures. The ArcelorMittal Orbit is a very good example of this. Even with a long history, steel is still a metal of the future.

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