Steel – Where Would We Be Without It?

Steely-eyed . . . Steel Magnolias . . . strong as steel . . . steel yourself.

Wow. Steel is really rooted in our language. That’s probably because it’s such an important part of our lives. But is that a good thing? Yes!

Believe it or not, steel should be proclaimed the best green energy material today. That’s because every single ounce of steel can be recycled. Every single ounce! Try that with plastic . . . or wood . . . or whatever. (BTW, the steel industry’s been recycling for about 150 years already.)

We hear a lot today about steel manufacturing, or the decline of it. But it’s not over by a long shot. In fact, steel is one of the most common materials in the world. Every car made today has a steel frame. And think about buildings, tools, ships, machines, appliances. Steel is far from being replaced anytime soon.

And that’s a good thing because we’ve got all sorts of really fun uses for it: racing cars, boats, cookware, engines, garden tools. And my favorite: art!

Here’s an interesting fact: if you frame one house with wood and another with steel, you’ll use 40-50 trees for the wood house, but just the equivalent of six recycled car frames for the steel structure.

But let’s go back to its introduction into the world of humans. First of all, steel isn’t like gold – you don’t dig for it and find a chunk. Not quite. You pretty much take a big scoop of iron (only available in certain parts of the world, like Pennsylvania) and start this whole complex process. Like remove oxygen, add carbon, heat it till it melts (as high as 1300o), then cool it fast. That’s the basic idea, but there’s a lot more to it.

As far as we can tell, steel was first produced about 4000 years ago – a piece of ironware was found around Turkey that dates back that far. The fact that people then had the “technology” to heat ore to so high a temperature is amazing.

Once it’s made and formed, steel can be manipulated with machines or Superman – but he’s usually busy. With tremendous pressure a sheet or coil of steel can be pressed into many shapes, and as we already know, we can re-use it and re-use it and re-use it….

And there you have it: we don’t think often about steel, but it’s so much a part of our lives we wouldn’t know where to begin living without it. And it’s the best recycling material around