"Wow, what a lot of rubbish you have," was the exclamation from one visitor looking up at one of our ready-sorted scrap heaps. But today rubbish, and in particular iron and metal scrap, is a hugely important resource, in short supply round the world.
One of the big advantages of steel and metals specifically is that you can recycle them over and over without any reduction in quality. The second big advantage is that you save enormous amounts of energy compared to mining virgin raw materials.
When you smelt 1 ton of scrap iron, compared with 1 ton of ore as a raw product, you save energy equivalent to 1 ton of coal. Imagine the gain when you multiply that by the whole of Sweden's steel production, which is just under 10 million tons per year. Or the energy saving for the whole world, which is around 1,500 million tons per year! The energy consumption for producing iron from scrap amounts to a mere 25 % of the consumption when starting with ore.
China is responsible for almost half of all steel making, and a large proportion of production is ore-based. However, environmental efforts are beginning to have greater impact in China as the current growth phase picks up pace. The authorities have announced in the coming five-year plan, among other things, that scrap intake in steel production must be increased from 14 % to 20 %.
If you compare aluminium scrap, which yields the highest energy saving from recycling, you save a full 95 % compared with mining new metal, i.e. bauxite. The energy saving in itself naturally also leads to reduced environmental impact.