When was the last time you looked down at the road and really thought about how it came to be there? The people who manufactured the materials, who drove them in, who actually built the road. Where did it all come from? There’s bound to be a story beneath your feet. There’s certainly one to the roads in one small state on the southeast coast of Brazil.

Back at the turn of the century, poor roads were a serious problem for local communities in the Brazilian state of Espirito Santo. With bad weather, unpaved roads often became unusable. And this meant that people were unable to move between and around communities to visit family, to deliver goods, even to provide emergency services.

The team at ArcelorMittal Tubarão began to experiment with a way to turn waste material from the steel-making process (slag) into a material for paving roads. And in 2006, they succeeded in creating a hard-wearing paving product called Revsol® that has transformed local communities and given second life to steel waste. This is a flagship example of how we can recycle and use resources more efficiently – one of our ten sustainable development outcomes (SDO 4).

Connected communities

We now produce two branded paving products in Tubarão that we supply to local governments at no cost, alongside technical support and training in how to apply them. So far, our products have paved more than 650km of urban and rural roads across the state of Espirito Santo. This is making a real difference to the people and environment of the area – and is helping us to be an active and welcomed member of the community, another of our target outcomes (SDO 8).

Local people now have better access to public services and transport of all types, such as emergency services, school buses and rubbish collection. Being able to travel more easily and safely all through the year has brought families and communities closer together. Rural producers and farmers can distribute their goods more quickly, with lower costs for delivery and vehicle upkeep. And these products have reduced building and maintenance costs for local governments, as they help roads to stay in better condition for longer.

Our durable paving is also reducing erosion and run-off into rivers and saving the natural non-renewable resources that might otherwise be used on roads.

Full-scale innovation

For ArcelorMittal, the New Paths project (Programa Novos Caminhos) has paid huge dividends. Yes, there have been financial gains, with $100m saved in landfill and handling costs, plus commercial sales to road builders and industry of around $100,000 each year. But crucially, it’s enhanced our reputation both locally and internationally. We’ve built excellent relationships with the organisations we’re contributing to Brazil: municipal governments, public service bodies and rural trade organisations. Our work has inspired similar projects elsewhere in the country, such as the Usiminas Caminhos do Vale program. And in 2017, our New Paths project was given a Steelie Award for excellence in sustainability by the World Steel Association.

Perhaps most importantly, we’re proving that initiatives like this one, involving so many elements – innovative research and development, environmental and risk assessments, quality control, branding, technical support, community partnerships – are not only possible, but bring enormous and diverse benefits to our industry as a whole.

“The application of Revsol on our road led to the biggest leap in quality of life that we had since I moved here 22 years ago. Now, in addition to being able to transport our products safely, rain or shine, we have buses at the door, school transport and garbage collection.”

Arvelino Valério da Silva, President of local rural producers’ association