Steel: America's most recycled resource

by Andy Shulman
uring World War II, Americans flattened their tin cans, cleaned out their attics and gathered their scrap steel so it could be turned into armaments. It was the biggest scavenger hunt in history.
Today, all one has to do is look about the house to see steel is used in so much of what we use - from our refrigerator to our car, from the coffee can to the basketball hoop. Steel is used to make freeway signs, tools, trash dumpsters, faucets, weight sets, paper clips and golf clubs, just to name a few.
It's one of the easiest materials to recycle. Because it's magnetic, steel can be easily separated from other recyclables with a large magnet. All steel products can be melted down and recycled into any other steel product.
If you're not sure whether a can is made of steel, there's more than one way to tell. First, check for the steel logo somewhere on the can. More and more companies are putting the logo on cans. Then, if you're still not sure, test it with a magnet - if it sticks, it's definitely steel.
Tin cans are actually steel with a thin tin coating. The steel used to make food cans, like soup and coffee, is high-quality steel which is an ideal raw material for making new steel. Each year, more than 35 billion steel cans are produced in the United States, and each one is manufactured using about 25 percent recycled steel.
You can recycle the steel tops to glass jars - such as juice, spaghetti sauce and pickle containers - and bottle caps, too. It's all steel and it's all recyclable.
You may have seen steel recycling ads on San Diego billboards or heard them on the radio. That's because I Love A Clean San Diego County, Inc. is working with the Steel Can Recycling Institute in Pittsburgh to increase public awareness of the recyclability of steel cans.
For more information on recycling steel cans, call 1-800-876-SCRI (7274). To find the nearest recycling center that accepts steel, call the Recycling Hotline at I Love A Clean San Diego County, 1-800-237-2583.

Andy Shulman is the Program Coordinator at I Love A Clean San Diego County, Inc.