Stainless steel is an alloy made from iron combined with other elements like carbon, chromium, nickel, manganese, and titanium. Many people already have a view on how stainless steel impacts the environment. However, we think you’ll be surprised at just how environmentally friendly stainless steel is!

There are many factors that can help decide if a material is environmentally friendly, such as whether it's biodegradable, if it's sustainable, its carbon footprint, and whether it is harmful to the environment.

Is Stainless Steel Biodegradable?

You might not think of metals as biodegradable, but stainless steel, even with its anti-corrosion properties, will eventually break down over thousands of years from the effects of weathering. The natural elements that stainless steel breaks down into are perfectly safe for the environment, and these metal elements will in fact benefit soil. Titanium, Manganese, and Iron are all considered to be beneficial elements for fertile soil.

Studies have shown that Titanium can improve crop performance because it stimulates enzymes that enhance chlorophyll and photosynthesis, which in turn promotes the uptake of nutrients from the soil, improving crop quality and yield.

Manganese is important for the healthy growth of plants and is considered to be an essential nutrient that plants require. Manganese supports the plant by helping in the synthesis of important enzymes, nitrogen metabolism, and photosynthesis.

Plants only require very small amounts of iron to remain healthy. However, it is critical in the plant's ability to produce chlorophyll, which gives plants their green colour and provides them with oxygen. Plants that don’t have enough iron will usually turn a sickly yellow colour.

Is Stainless Steel Sustainable?

Stainless Steel is one of the most widely used materials on the planet. It is used everywhere from building infrastructure to surgical equipment, to everyday household kitchen utensils and cutlery.

The iron used to produce stainless steel is a natural resource and is one of the most common elements on the earth after oxygen, silicon and aluminium. The other elements that are combined with iron to make stainless steel are also all natural resources.

Although stainless steel was traditionally produced from raw iron ore combined with coal in a blast furnace, around 80% to 85% of the stainless steel produced globally today is made from recycled scrap metal in an electric arc furnace. Stainless steel recycling in the UK is thought to be at approximately 96%.

The production process has been improved in modern times so that the waste products are now no longer wasted, with molten slag being collected, the metals reclaimed, and the remaining aggregate used for concrete, road surfaces, and other construction materials.

Carbon Footprint

The modern manufacturing process of stainless steel is working towards achieving carbon neutrality through more energy-efficient processes and the use of clean energy in production processes.

Stainless steel is very resistant to corrosion and lasts an extremely long time before the weather breaks it down. The durability of stainless steel significantly reduces the need to use natural resources because the product doesn’t fail due to corrosion.

Impact on the Environment

We have saved the best ‘til last - it is 100% recyclable! Making it one of the most environmentally friendly materials used today. The high scrap metal value and the relative ease with which it can be recycled helps to keep stainless steel from going to landfill. The quality of the recycled product is the same as the original.

Whilst it is true that the production and manufacture of stainless steel uses non-renewable resources, the end product is easy to recycle and because the manufacturing process is straight forward it uses less fuel.

No chemicals are used during the production of stainless steel so there is no chemical waste to consider, and no chemicals are released when it is recycled.

Whilst stainless steel isn’t considered to be biodegradable because it will not decompose, it is eco-friendly because when it eventually breaks down after thousands of years, all the elements are natural and so it has no adverse effects on the environment.

Stainless Steel – The Environmentally Friendly Metal

We hope you found this article informative and maybe it has even changed the way you feel about stainless steel’s impact on the environment. As you can see, the manufacturing process is environmentally friendly and improving all the time, and there are no toxic chemicals involved or produced. Stainless steel is both durable and corrosion-resistant and has the benefit of being 100% recyclable.

BS Fixings is proud to be part of an industry that is striving to constantly improve its product and become more environmentally friendly. You can browse our range of stainless steel tying wire, or stainless steel banding, safe in the knowledge that it is environmentally friendly.