Waste is a material with enormous intrinsic value. The voestalpine companies worldwide practice careful recycling management in line with life cycle assessment.
Production processes also generate waste and “residual” auxiliary materials (swarf, punching debris, etc.) that can subsequently be recycled and reused. Waste is therefore a valuable commodity for voestalpine companies.
- A comprehensive waste separation campaign at Villares Metals in Sumaré, Brazil (High Performance Metals Division), supports the idea of recycling waste—both in the office and in production.
What is waste?
There are many different definitions. By law, for example, metal strip residue generated in the punching and pressing operations at voestalpine Automotive Components sites is waste. “But scrap is a valuable production raw material for our steel mills,” says Günther Kurz, Commercial Process Manager of the Recycling Center at voestalpine Stahl GmbH. This competence center sells around 2 million tons of recyclable materials to customers all over the world every year.
- Back in 2014, 84% of all material used in today’s High Performance Metals Division was recycled material.
Reusing recyclable materials
According to Günther Kurz, the residual products resulting from the metallurgical processes in Linz are valuable raw and input materials for companies in many different industries: granulated slag for cement, lump slag for road construction, benzene and crude tar from coke production for the chemical industry and iron oxide for the electronics industry.
- Recovered iron oxide from the voestalpine pickling plants is a much sought-after raw material. Every year, 23,000 tons of iron oxide recovered during the regeneration of pickling acid is sold to customers in the electronics industry. It is used, for example, in the form of ferrite cores in the safety technology of modern day cars.
From this perspective, “waste” is only those residual products for which no economically viable treatment technologies have yet been developed. In the meantime, they are being stored.
Always in the loop
To improve the sustainability aspect of production, however, the percentage of unusable residual products has to be further reduced. The easiest way is by reusing in-house waste and residual products in the production process—in the loop, so to speak. Recycling is an important aspect of the holistic view of products over their entire life cycle (life cycle assessment/LCA). Its importance is also reflected in the efforts of the EU action plan for the circular economy.
- In crude steel production, voestalpine uses approx. 600,000 tons of recycled materials annually and additionally recycles around 70,000 tons of external waste.
In 2017, for example, voestalpine Stahl Donawitz GmbH set up its own department for waste and recycling management modeled on the Recycling Center in Linz.
Steel performs outstandingly in the LCA. Since it is never used up, it can be recycled repeatedly (“multiple times”) without compromising its quality.