Article - After Use: Recycling Metal Building Products

Recycling Header

Metal Construction News posted this excellent article on June 1, 2019 talking about recycling metal building products. Click here to read the full article.

Steel and metal are the most commonly recycled materials, and construction demolition is a great source of material.

In everything from our day-to-day lives to our presence on the job site, recycling has impacted the way we operate. We all know the admonitions about reducing our trash flow to the landfill, and that throwing away an aluminum soda can wastes the equivalent amount of energy as if the can were filled with gasoline.

We see photos of the giant plastic island floating in the Pacific Ocean, and everyone from toddlers to grandparents is aware of the need to reduce, reuse and recycle. The construction industry has taken on the task of reducing job-site waste, and we address it in a variety of ways. But during demolition of buildings or renovations that require partial demolition, we create tons of waste. That’s the bad news. The good news for us in the metal construction industry is that the material we install is the most likely to be recycled and is the most valuable to the recyclers.

“Approximately 94 percent of steel from a demolition of a commercial building gets recycled,” says David Keeling, director of recycling for the Steel Recycling Institute. “That’s a fairly good number. Obviously, you lose things in the process of the demolition, depending on if it’s a teardown or an implosion, although implosions are a very small percentage of the whole demolition process.”

In fact, one of the great selling points about steel and metal is its recyclability. It is the foundation of the product’s sustainability claims.

Steel can be recycled over and over again and never lose its physical properties. More importantly, it doesn’t have any memory. A steel beam can become a hood on your automobile or a steel can or whatever the case may be. It’s just a matter of chemistry. - David Keeling

Mark Thimons is vice president of sustainability for the American Iron and Steel Institute. He says, “That’s one of the features of steel that we really try to emphasize because it’s nearly the only construction product that you can say that about. Concrete gets recycled, but it typically doesn’t get recycled back into concrete. Wood gets recycled into things like mulch and fiberboard.”