The Association of European Producers of Steel for Packaging (APEAL) claims that 2.7Mt of steel was recycled in 2012. The figure corresponds to the average European recycling rate of 74%. “This reinforces the long-term trend for steel as the most recycled packaging material in Europe,” said APEAL.

According to APEAL, steel is the most recycled packaging material in Europe when compared with plastic (35%); beverage cartons (39%); aluminium (68%) and glass (70%).

Thomas J Gibson, president and CEO of the American Iron & Steel Institute, said that the steel industry’s internationally recognised energy efficiency, coupled with its recycling rate, is proof of the steel industry’s commitment to sustainability and resource conservation.

The Steel Recycling Institute in the USA claims that the overall recycling rate for steel in 2012 was 88% and that nearly 84Mt of steel was recycled, including 1.3Mt of tin plate steel (the equivalent of 21 billion steel cans). Tin plate steel achieved a recycling rate of 71% – the highest among packaging materials.

Where recycling is concerned, steel’s magnetic qualities mean it is easy to separate from waste streams, enabling high recovery rates. It is also 100% recyclable and can be infinitely recycled without loss of strength and other key properties.

Comparing recovery rates across a number of key industry sectors, APEAL found that the machinery market achieved 90% in 2007 and is projected to achieve 95% by 2050. Construction and automotive both achieved an 85% recovery rate in 2007 and are each projected to reach 90% by 2050. Similarly the electrical and domestic appliances market is estimated to reach 90% by 2050 albeit from a lower 2007 base of just 50%.

While steel is the most recycled industrial material in the world – 500Mt are recycled annually – in Europe the 2020 goal of 80% means there is still plenty of work to be done, according to Alexander Mohr, APEAL’s secretary-general.

• Over 22 billion tonnes of steel have been recycled globally since 1900.