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Good practices in collection, sorting and recycling of steel for packaging


Steel stands as the best recycled packaging material of all, being the easiest and most economical to sort, recover and recycle, over and over again. It is definitely the perfectly fitted material for the Circular Economy. Though, even with an impressive 77.5% recycling rate, there are still some efforts to be done.

And that is the purpose of the APEAL’s new report on steel recycling best practices.

Released at the conference “Steel for Packaging, a Pioneer of Circular Economy”, organised in Brussels yesterday by APEAL, the Association of European Producers of Steel for Packaging, the report highlights concrete examples in collecting, sorting and recycling steel which APEAL believes constitute the best practices in different geographical areas across Europe.

Based on recycling data collected from all over Europe, referred as “real recycling statistics” -as it is only taking into account recovered materials that are actually integrated in a new material production process-, this White Book compiles and showcases various projects, systems and processes by which steel packaging is recycled in different European countries of which Germany, United-Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Belgium, Austria…


On the path of improving the steel recycling process

The report lists 5 major steps to follow in order to improve collection, sorting and recycling of steel for packaging:

1. Raise awareness at a domestic level on the importance of recycling and correctly choosing the right bin

It relies on local authorities to provide customers adequate structures for source separation of the waste and clear information on how to correctly sort steel waste in order to make it easily available for recycling.

2. Separate collection of household packaging waste

Because of the complexity and costs of separately collecting mono-material fractions, the collection of mixed packaging waste has become quite the norm in Europe, even if there have been in some countries specific lightweight packaging collection schemes organised at local, regional or national level.

When it comes to steel recycling, dry recyclables collection system is the most commonly-used option and steel magnetic property makes the sorting much easier.

3. Ensure quality of packaging steel scrap

Following the sorting step, it can still remain a certain level of foreign and non-ferrous materials among the steel packaging scrap bundles coming from the other packaging co-mingled with steel which are called steriles or impurities. These foreign materials determine the impurity level, the maximum allowed impurity percentage above which the quality of steel scrap is not guaranteed.

If needed, an additional treatment can be performed to lower this impurity level and deliver a material of a high enough quality to be accepted at the steel plants.

4. Learn from the various sorting systems in Europe

From France to Belgium, including Germany among others, each country has developed its own waste recycling scheme. There is no absolute one-size-fits-all solution but different interesting solutions listed by APEAL as best practices to learn from in order to improve steel packaging collection and recycling.

5. Set up efficient quality control of steel packaging scrap

To be integrated in the production of new steel, the steel scrap must be of a sufficiently high quality to be accepted by steel plants. This implies regular and efficient controls along the recycling chain to prove the collecting steel fulfils all the quality requirements.

The application of quality standards across the different actors (sorting centers, scrap providers, receiving recycling industries) is the best way to ensure a good performing steel recycling system.


Download the full report

'Good practices in collection, sorting and recycling of steel for packaging'


Discover more on ArcelorMittal’s commitment to Sustainability and the French Recycling Filière

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Pictures: Jeroen Op de Beeck, La Boîte Boisson, ArcelorMittal