Steel/Stainless Steel

Steel tops the list of North America’s most recycled materials.

It’s one of the most used metals in the world, from the tallest skyscrapers to everyday kitchen utensils. Since the Industrial Age, steel has driven technological growth and advancement and continues to fuel innovation today, with more than 1,950,500,000 tonnes (2,204.6 lbs=1 ton) produced in 2021 alone.

More than 80% of stainless steel products and parts are recycled at the end of their lives. Only around 9% of plastic items are ever recycled, making stainless steel the clear winner in metals recycling. 60 percent of steel products are recycled. But because more steel is produced than scrapped, recycled steel makes up about 40 percent of the total amount of steel produced. A total of 1085 million tons of steel is recycled a year.

US is ranked 4th in the world in steel production behind Japan, India, and China. The steel industry in China is driven by massive construction, infrastructure, and manufacturing industries. Since 2009, steel demand has outpaced steel production, according to

Steel is valuable because of its high tensile strength, defined as the maximum stress that a material can bear before breaking when it is allowed to be stretched or pulled. And steel is relatively low cost. It’s used in:

  • Buildings
  • Infrastructure
  • Tools
  • Ships
  • Trains
  • Automobiles
  • Machines
  • Appliances
  • Weapons.

Stainless steel is easily sterilized and resistant to corrosion. Stainless steel drew its name from the fact it “stains less.” In most cases, stainless steel varieties that have iron in their composition are magnetic. If the alloy has an austenitic crystal structure, then it’s not magnetic. The difference between steel and stainless steel is that stainless steel is magnetic.  It is used for:

  • Cutlery
  • Surgical and dental instruments
  • Kidney dishes (disposable containers used to catch patient bodily fluids in medical and surgical wards.
  • Operating tables
  • Cannulas
  • Steam sterilizers
  • MRI scanners
  • Kitchens
  • Food processing plant equipment.


No. Kryptonite doesn’t factor into recycling super powered steel. Atlas Metal and Iron accepts:

  • Heavy Melting Steel found in pipe, generic rail, and fence posts
  • Plate and Structural Steel found in I beams, plate, and heavy dense new alloyed steel
  • Rebar
  • Light gauge steel used in appliances and siding.

There are three categories of steel scrap:

  • Home scrap is steel waste from trimmings and reject scrap that occurs in steel mills through the production of steel. It usually goes directly into the furnace.
  • Prompt scrap is excess scrap from automotive and appliances manufacturing.
  • Obsolete scrap includes household appliances, old cars, office/household waste and demolished buildings/structures.

Steel scrap is melted down at 3,000 degrees and purified to remove contaminants. Then the melted steel is solidified into sheets. The newly recycled metal is shipped to factories as raw material. And the cycle of recycling begins again. Recycled steel is as strong and durable as new steel made from iron ore.

Stainless steel is 100% recyclable into the same product with no reduction in quality.

In the end, steel recycling efforts save 75 percent of the overall energy used in production from raw materials. This has huge benefits saving natural resources and preventing excess greenhouse gas emissions.


Nearly all steel is recycled (87-90%), but even by 2050 scrap supplies will only make up around half of the projected demand for steel. Be super, recycle.