Let’s talk about steel. Steel is one of the most versatile and recyclable metals on our green Earth. It’s so interesting, we’ve put together a list of five interesting facts that you didn’t know.
Five Interesting Facts About Steel
- It comes in a lot of different shapes and sizes.
If you don’t specifically work in the industry, you might not realize that there are thousands of different grades of steel. You might know about galvanized, and maybe stainless. What else is there?
Actually, more than 3,500 different grades, to be exact. This is because steel lends itself to alloys well (alloys are a combination of more than one type of metal), and so metal suppliers are constantly developing new combinations of metals to produce grades of steel that have properties of other metals to make them stronger, lighter, and more durable. Some experts estimate that about 75% of steel used today are the product of development over the last 20 years.
The rate of growth in this industry isn’t slowing down. There’s a good chance that 20 years from now, 75% of steel products will be a type of metal that doesn’t exist today.
- It has more lives than a cat.
Steel can be recycled over and over without ever losing its quality. In fact, almost every steel product that you’ve ever contact with has already served its country a few times over and made its way through the recycling plant in between each. If you’re suddenly stressed about how many times you’ve accidentally trashed a steel product instead of throwing it in the recycle, have no fear. Because steel is magnetic, it can easily be pulled out of the trash before it makes its way to a landfill. The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries estimates that approximately 55% of the steel products produced in the United States each year make their way back through the system via a recycle center.
- Just scrap from the industrial and manufacturing industries alone supply most of our metal.
Because steel is so easily recycled, almost nothing goes to waste. This is particularly true in the industrial and manufacturing sectors. Just the shavings that are left over after a metal part is produced, and the re-purposing of parts that are no longer functioning as they should creates about 35 million tons of scrap per year. That accounts for about half of all the steel products that are produced, across all industries! This is called “prompt scrap” and is one of the biggest sources of all steel products in the United States. That’s right, your toaster used to be a pipe or a bridge before it made it’s way to your home.
- But it CAN rust.
One reason that steel can be used over and over, and one reason that stainless steel products are so desirable is that they resist rust or corrosion. However, the label “stainless” steel is a bit misleading. It can succumb to corrosion if the conditions are just right:
- If the welding machine electrodes aren’t properly cleaned between working with plain and stainless steel, it can be contaminated.
- If the same metal brushes are used by both plain and stainless alloys. Once again, this contaminates the stainless portion of the stainless steel.
- If chemicals that are harsh enough to remove the oxide layer are introduced to the appliance.
As you can see, it is important for the steel to be handled properly during the production phase for the “stainless” part of the name to be accurate.
- In some cases, it is less expensive than the same products, made of plastic.
It is no surprise that stainless steel is almost always more expensive than plastic. However, when you consider the far greater lifespan that you get from a metal product than that of plastic, as well as the greater tensile strength, the protection against melting under high temperatures, resistance against puncturing or shattering, the cost often makes up for itself. Your plastic trays or tools will melt, crack, and wear out while your metal counterparts will keep on trucking. When you factor in that you have to purchase a hundred plastic products for every one metal one, it’s often a better financial deal to go with the metal option.
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