Examples of Environmental Issues

This boat of stainless steel yields major environmental dividends during its operating life. It is lighter than a traditional aluminium boat, consumes only half the fuel at the same time as it is very hardy and the hull is maintenance-free; it requires neither painting nor surface treatment. Photo: Swedish Steel Yachts.
Read about steelboats (smt.sandvik.com).

Steel and iron are found practically everywhere in our society. Swedish steel, combined with the application knowledge possessed by the companies, creates advanced steels which are for example, stronger, lighter in weight, extremely sustainable, super clean and highly heat and pressure resistant. These enhanced characteristics create possibilities for more sustainable products and solutions with reduced environmental impact, especially during the utilisation phase of the products concerned. It is crucial to pay attention to the environmental footprint from the entire life cycle of the steel products and not only look at the impact from the actual production process.

Environmental impact occurs at each stage of the steel’s eco-cycle, including the transportation in between.

Total environmental effect = summing up the environmental impact value of:

  • Raw materials
  • Transportation of raw materials to steel plant
  • Steel production
  • Transportation of steel to producer of structural elements for construction
  • Production of the structural element
  • Transportation of structural element to place of use
  • Utilisation in construction
  • Transportation of end-of-life structure for recycling
  • Recycling of the steel

Example of environmental benefits from using high strength, structural steel

An advanced, high strength structural steel enables the trailer manufacturer to reduce the trailer’s own (tare) weight while retaining full carrying capacity. The weight decrease means an overall increase in loading capacity and fewer tiresome transport journeys as well as a more lightweight trailer with lower fuel consumption in the case of empty or half-full transportation.

Many examples are ready to hand where trailer and extension manufacturers use SSAB’s high strength steels and thereby reduce the vehicle’s tare weight. This saving then goes to increase the payload capacity; delivering a lighter and more sustainable vehicle that consumes less raw materials on production, acquires a significantly longer life and cuts down the number of transport journeys.
Find out more: Steel creates environmental benefit, fact sheets

New EU method for measuring environmental impact

The European Commission has published a methodology to measure the environmental performance of different products, “Product Environmental Footprint” (2013/179/EU).

During 2015, extensive pilot studies were ongoing to evaluate the method for measuring the environmental impact or footprint arising from products, ranging from articles of clothing to steel strip. The method includes 14 different environmental impact categories. There are major challenges in measuring the footprint of metallic materials since reliable methods are lacking for evaluating these from a life cycle perspective. In future, the method may be tied to specific legislation covering products.
Find out more: Product Environmental Footprint (ec.europa.eu)

National and international regulations

Besides the demand for more effective and efficient products, the steel industry must also pay attention to demands that are mainly shaped by the European product legislation, which in its turn includes requirements concerning e.g. the trace element content of different steel grades. The steel industry closely follows the development of regulations that affect products, whether these are national or international in scope. Issues that are of interest are raised in collaboration with Eurofer, the World Steel Association or indeed other industrial sectors.

Legislation affecting steel products

REACH, Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation of Chemicals (Regulation 1907/2006) regulates all substances that are produced in, or imported into, the EU in amounts that exceed one tonne per year. Companies are obliged to register these substances i.e. analyse (risk assess) and report the risk and indicate which safety measures are required. The REACH measures for companies are co-ordinated with other industry trade groups and consortia, where the registration of different forms of iron (Fe2O3, iron ore sinter, iron ore pellets, pig iron and metallic iron) is concerned.

WEEE, Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment (2012/19/EU) covers waste that comprises or includes electrical or electronic products. Its purpose is to ensure that waste, as far as possible, is reused or recycled.

RoHS, Restriction of use of Hazardous Substances (2011/65/EU) regulates the utilisation of certain metals such as mercury, cadmium, lead, and hexavalent chromium in new electrical and electronic products. Exemptions for these metals are made for certain product groups. These exemptions are reviewed every fourth year by the EU Commission and the member states. The steel industry participates in the process.

ELV, End of Life Vehicle (directive 2000/53/EC) regulates the overall handling of end-of-life vehicles. This entails, for example, a prohibition on the sale of motor cars containing lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium. A number of exceptions from the prohibition apply e.g. for lead in batteries and lead in solder joints for electronics, steel with lead added as well as hexavalent chromium in corrosion protection coatings.

Green Public Procurement means environmentally sensitive public procurement and the criteria for this are now subject to review by the EU Commission. Certain of these criteria are based only on inherent hazard and, as a consequence, certain steel grades which are approved under the REACH regulation can be excluded from public procurement.

Our standpoints

  • Product regulations shall be based on risk assessments and not exclude products that contain certain hazardous substances solely based on their inherent properties.
  • Methods for assessment of different environmental footprints must be well founded and reliable. Only when such methods are properly developed can a certain aspect be included in an assessment of the environmental impact of a product.

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