In 1988, the Steel Can Recycling Institute was formed by the North American steel industry and scrap processors to assist in developing an infrastructure for the recycling of steel cans and to serve as a primary information and technical resource. At that time, the steel can recycling rate was 15 percent.
Today, the Steel Recycling Institute (SRI), as it became known in the early 1990s, is an industry association which provides education to the solid waste industry, government, business and ultimately the consumer about the benefits of steel's infinite recycling cycle. SRI, a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), now works to promote and sustain the recycling of all steel products, including cans, cars, appliances, and construction materials.
Many of us started our recycling careers with the “steel spokescan”—ROSCOE (Recycle Our Steel; Conserve Our Environment), which made its debut in 1992. By 1993, the steel can recycling rate was 48 percent. In 1997, SRI joined more than 100 public and private entities to launch the first Annual America Recycles Day.
SRI continues its works with recycling coordinators, scrap processors, and steel companies to nurture an infrastructure for recycling steel cans, cars, appliances and construction materials as well as emerging sources of steel scrap such as steel aerosol cans, used oil filters, and other previously untapped sources of steel scrap. SRI provides up-to-date and relevant informational and technical resources for recycling, life cycle impact of steel and steel products, and market resources.
Steel is now North America's most recycled material, with an overall recycling rate of 88 percent. More steel is recycled annually than paper, plastic, aluminum, and glass combined. And, the steel can recycling rate has risen to an impressive 71 percent.
Steel scrap is an essential raw material in making new steel. Each year millions of tons of steel are collected through recycling programs and used in steelmaking furnaces throughout North America to manufacture new steel products. Recycled steel (“ferrous”) scrap is now used to produce more than 60 percent of total raw steel produced in the United States. This use of steel scrap to make new steel conserves energy, reduces emissions and conserves natural resources.
In its own words, SRI “continues to support the vision of making steel the material that augments the well-being of people and the planet. Recycling is the connection of steel's sustainability. Steel is continuously recyclable, which means it can be recycled over and over with no loss of performance.” Last fall, SRI marked its 25th anniversary with a significant milestone—more than one billion tons of steel have been recycled by the North American steel industry since 1988. Along with its continued education and support role, SRI is focusing on credibly documenting the superior environmental performance of steel through rigorous life cycle studies.
SRI became NERC’s first Advisory Member in 2003, and has remained an active and important participant in NERC ever since. SRI is more than an Advisory Member for NERC, however, showing its support by having its staff regularly attending NERC conferences and Board Meetings, and participating on committees. According to Chip Foley, Director, “It’s essential for SRI to focus on public policy issues that are vitally important to the steel industry, including our support and work with environmental organizations such as the Northeast Recycling Council and the Toxics and Packaging Clearinghouse.”