Our products and our Group, examples of Circular Economy
The circular economy concept, in its own right, is implicit in the properties of stainless steel: it can be recycled without any loss of quality as many times as necessary and after having fulfilled its function in any application, with an unlimited useful life under optimal conditions.
Stainless steel is one of the most well-known cost-effective products with a life cycle that best responds to the four 'R's' on which the circular economy concept is based: reduce, reuse, remanufacture and recycle.
At Acerinox, the circular economy encompasses all phases of the manufacturing cycle, from acquisition of the raw materials to their subsequent processing, distribution and sale, and the collecting of materials for their reuse. It is a cycle that is intrinsic to the production processes of our factories, and that is why Acerinox signed the Circular Economy Pact in 2017 along with the other companies of the sector, in an agreement that involves maintaining the value of products, materials and resources within the productive cycles for as long as possible, and thus minimising the generation of waste.
Depending on the sector, up to 95% (and no less than 80%) of stainless steel is collected for recycling as scrap metal from its main applications (building and infrastructure, means of transport, industrial machinery, household appliances and metal articles).
Therefore, Acerinox has become one of the largest recyclers of scrap in the areas in which it operates. An example of this is the Acerinox Europa plant, which is one of the largest recycling centres of scrap in Europe as it is the largest recycling centre in Spain, and Spain leads this field in Europe, according to the Association of European Producers of Steel for Packaging.
The increase in the percentage of recycling and reuse gives rise to a reduction in the tonnes of greenhouse gases, so the use of stainless steel is inexorably linked with greater care for the atmosphere compared to other materials, even more so on an industrial scale. Moreover, stainless steel can take pride in being an ideal material in the fight against the throw-away culture, since its use is aligned with higher value-added products with properties that offer greater durability against the highest demands.
So stainless steel coils, strips, bars, etc., manufactured in our factories, which are subsequently transformed into cars, buildings, cutlery, planes, bridges and household appliances, end up returning to our plants as scrap to be recast and reused in a circular cycle that could be infinite (thanks to the product’s characteristics). At the end of the process, a stainless steel object has a recycled content rate of 91% in its composition.
Efficient use of resources and the promotion of initiatives that contribute to a circular economy are key to the Group's continued sustainable and responsible growth.
Thanks to its properties, this material is an excellent example of recyclability and recoverability, which are key to contributing to sustainable development. Therefore, its life cycle offers multiple opportunities to contribute to the protection and improvement of the environment.
The circular economy, within the core business of Acerinox
Case Study: “Packaging Project”
In 2019 Acerinox Europa implemented a project to eliminate single-use plastic products and, therefore, a campaign for the elimination of these kinds of products was developed.
This focused on different measures, such as eliminating workers’ plastic bottles by giving them 100% recyclable and unlimited-use stainless steel bottles.
Similarly, Acerinox Europa undertook to guarantee selective collection of plastic and other waste. To do so, it provided the plant with sufficient means for correct separation, specifically establishing recycling points throughout the plant’s operational area for plastic waste, organic waste, PPE, paper, cardboard, etc.
In addition, an environmental awareness and sensitisation campaign was carried out by means of sustainability posters, in order to involve the employees in the initiative and thus promote their commitment and participation. Training is also provided on the correct separation of waste and good environmental practices during the initial training courses for all new workers, together with a risk assessment and training on energy efficiency.