Stainless Steel and the Environment

Piles of slit stainless steel



Well, it might not be the COLOR green but it is considered an Environmentally Sustainable material. The environmental impact of a given material is often a major factor in the application of that material. Look no further than Stainless Steel. Stainless Steel is 100% Recyclable. And there are three specific reasons why Stainless Steel is a well-performing sustainable material.

  • Stainless Steel reduces waste during the production process
  • Stainless Steel has a long lifespan
  • Because of #1 and #2, Stainless Steel requires less energy to produce


What does it mean when we say that Stainless Steel is 100% Recyclable? First of all, an average stainless object is made up of approximately 60% of recycled materials. This means that the lifespan of Stainless Steel is cyclical. Stainless steel in-and-of-itself is not a consumed material but a sustained one. Stainless Steel is comprised of elements like chromium, nickel, iron and molybdenum. These raw materials are also recyclable and are often in high demand in the global market. The chemical, mechanical, and physical properties that make Stainless Steel 100% Recyclable also make Stainless Steel a cost-effective material. When you invest in Stainless Steel, you are buying a recycled product and a recyclable product. In fact, Stainless Steel is the number one most recycled material in the world.


Scrap is recyclable metal produced by product manufacturing or product consumption. But don’t confuse scrap with waste. Scrap is recyclable and essential to the production of more metal. Scrap metal is the reason why Stainless Steel is 100% recyclable. The scrap that is produced in manufacturing processes is sold back to Stainless Steel mills and used in the production of new Stainless Steel. Any given piece of Stainless Steel is made out of about 25% “Old Scrap” (end-of-life products), 35% “New Scrap” (scrap returning from production), and 40% new material. 


When Stainless Steel hit the market it immediately became a highly-sought-after material with a wide range of applications. Stainless Steel offers strength, resistance to corrosion, resistance to bacteria, and a great diversity of alloys for all of your premier metal needs. And, as its name suggests, the material is able to maintain a “stainless” appearance even when exposed to heat, spills and splatter. Stainless Steel is used in a variety of sectors including automotive, transportation, chemical, medical, and construction. One of the reasons manufacturers return to Stainless Steel is because its long-life cycle. In fact, Stainless Steel can survive without replacement for decades. The replacement of Stainless Steel is more often due to a change style, or the technological advancement of a product. But, even when Stainless Steel reaches the end of its life, it is then recycled and makes up an average of 25% of new Stainless product. So, in essence, Stainless never dies, it sustains.


Factoring in the recyclability and the long lifespan of Stainless Steel, we can also study the lifetime energy requirement of the material. That will help us to better understand the true energy needs of the material and where there is opportunity for conservation. The energy required in the production of Stainless Steel is directly related to the materials required for the production of more of the metal. Studies have found that the energy required to produce Stainless Steel from scrap is less than a third of the energy used to produce stainless steel from “virgin” sources. But there is a bit of a catch-22 here. The longer Stainless Steel lives the less scrap is produced. And, in order to produce more Stainless Steel, mills need scrap material. What that means is, it is imperative that manufacturers collect and recycle their scrap metal. At NKS, that’s exactly what we do.


Stainless Steel contributes in many ways to environmental sustainability. One such way, is the application of Stainless Steel in the renewable energy industry. Let’s take the use of Stainless Steel in plumbing for example. Because of the durability of Stainless Steel, and its resistance to corrosion, Stainless Steel pipes and pipelines maintain their structural integrity for longer periods of time. They also ensure an overall reduction of water loss during transfer or storage. Stainless Steel is crucial to solar power plants as well. Solar Power Plants rely on mirrors to focus sunlight onto a liquid in order to heat it up. The process then produces steam, which is harnessed to turn turbines that produce electricity. Stainless Steel materials are used throughout these plants. Its ability to withstand corrosion and high temperatures is essential to the success of the production of clean energy. And finally, Stainless Steel can be found in wind turbines. Again, the long lifespan, anti-corrosion and lightweight properties of Stainless Steel make it an ideal material for wind turbines in a wide range of environments.


At NKS we, Re-use, Re-purpose and Recycle. That’s our commitment and the foundation of our Environmental Management System. NKS is the only major Stainless Steel supplier and service center to comply with stringent environmental requirements. National Kwikmetal Service’s mission includes conducting business in compliance with required environmental laws, regulations and permits. NKS works to continuously improve environmental performance in all operations by monitoring and auditing its environmental impact. Our policy is intended to help develop long-term benefits for all employees and our communities. NKS will advocate for a cleaner environment by sharing lessons learned with suppliers and customers. We will communicate environmental issues throughout the company. And we will continuously improve the environmental management system. That’s our promise.

Contact us today to learn more!