The steel and engineering sectors could be reinvented as high-value industries based on recycling and renewable energy, a conference organised by promoters of the ’Greensteel’ campaign has heard.
Delegates at the Rotherham event heard that a combination of cheap, clean power, a burgeoning supply of scrap steel and the UK’s expertise in metals technology could develop this emerging industry.
Jay Hambro, chief investment officer of GFG Alliance, which owns the Greensteel brand, said: “Greensteel is the way of the future. It is an opportunity we can’t afford to waste if we want to rebuild metals and engineering as profitable and sustainable sectors, supporting many thousands of skilled British jobs.”
He explained how GFG companies Liberty House and Simec had developed plans to build five million tonnes of Greensteel production capacity within five years, which would feed competitively priced and low-carbon metals into engineering and manufacturing companies.
Julian Allwood, professor of engineering and the environment at the University of Cambridge, told the conference that the supply of UK scrap steel was predicted to double to 20 million tonnes a year, and said the country could meet its future needs by recycling more scrap at home rather than exporting the bulk of it.
He also argued that better design of metal-based products would result in less waste in the manufacturing process and therefore reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.
GFG said Greensteel is intended to recycle scrap steel using electric arc furnaces powered by renewable energy, so reducing the carbon footprint of manufacture, shortening the supply chain and developing a sustainable and competitive metal manufacturing sector.
British Metals Recycling Association chief executive Robert Fell warned scrap would likely be exported unless government support was offered.
He said: “The metal recycling industry in the UK is remarkably effective at processing scrap metal for use as a secondary resource in production. In fact, we are so effective that we produce far more than can currently be used in the domestic furnaces and foundries, which is why we export over 80% overseas.
“Given the benefits to the environment of recycling metals, we support any moves that will increase the amount of scrap used in the production process and believe companies should be encouraged to design products for reuse and recycling rather than just design for manufacture alone.”
Fell warned though that any move towards greater domestic consumption would require greater support from the Government, including through mandating the use of locally produced materials with high levels of recycled content in government-backed projects, and by embracing green procurement processes.
“Unless things change, it is likely that any increase in the amount of scrap generated in the UK will just continue to be exported,” he said.