Environment

Waste Management,
Recycling and Reuse

Steel is the most recycled material in the world, but that’s not the only thing we recycle and reuse from our operations.

U. S. Steel’s commitment to environmental compliance includes responsible management of wastes generated at our facilities. At U. S. Steel, recycling is not just good for the environment, it’s good for business.

At the heart of our commitment to recycling is the fact that the very material we make every day is the single most recycled material on the planet with an overall recyclability rate of 86%. As you can see, nothing else comes close.

Recyclability rates in the
United States

(data by Steel Recyclability Institute)

Steel

86%

aluminum

<70%

Paper

<70%

Glass

33%

Plastic

10%

U. S. Steel’s waste management, recycling and reuse efforts focus on the following areas:

Not only is our steel recycled, but many of the byproducts in its production can be used in other processes or for other purposes. In 2020, U. S. Steel recycled approximately 3.4 million tons of blast furnace slag and 0.4 million tons of steel slag. Blast furnace (iron) slag and basic oxygen furnace (steel) slag are highly sustainable products that are used in place of natural aggregates such as limestone and gravel in numerous construction and product applications. Blast furnace slag is used in cement manufacturing, asphalt mixes, glass manufacturing, precast concrete, wallboard, mineral wool, and sub-base for road and interstate highway construction. Steel slag, which like blast furnace slag can be used in cement manufacturing and asphalt mixes, is also recycled in applications such as landfill daily cover and internal haul roads, phosphorus removal in wastewater treatment, ground water remediation, reactive barrier walls, and agricultural application, including as a liming agent and micronutrient in fertilizer. Use of iron and steel slag in place of mined and quarried rock and mineral aggregates saves these natural resources and reduces the impact to the environment.

We reduce the amount of waste generated and emissions produced in steelmaking by reusing the byproduct gases produced in our blast furnaces and coke ovens because it is good for the environment and good for business. Companywide, by using the blast furnace and coke oven gas generated in our cokemaking and steelmaking activities to power our facilities, we avoided consuming enough natural gas and other fuels from 2018 to 2020 to heat more than 3.4 million households each year.

At our Minnesota Ore Operations in the Mesabi Iron Range, we operate several highly efficient taconite mines – “Keetac” and “Minntac”. The stockpiling of wastes generated by these processes is regulated by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDR). Waste rock and surface material must be removed to uncover the taconite that will be processed. Waste rock and surface overburden are stockpiled around the active mining area. U. S. Steel complies with MNDNR that address both completed and planned reclamation activities.

U. S. Steel recycles several other materials from the byproduct cokemaking, ironmaking, steelmaking, and steel finishing operations. In 2020, 6,000 tons of process materials from the cokemaking byproducts plant were collected and returned directly to coke ovens. Carbon, iron, and steel bearing residuals, such as coal and coke fines, taconite pellet fines, blast furnace and steel furnace air pollution control dusts and sludges are used to produce sinter and briquettes, which are then used as feedstocks for ironmaking and steelmaking, respectively. This included the production of approximately 3.5 million tons of sinter, which were used in the blast furnaces, along with 123,000 tons of briquettes that were used in the blast furnaces and Basic Oxygen Processes (BOP) furnaces.

Recycling helps preserve landfills and improves sustainability through raw material and resource management. Every year, U. S. Steel recycles substantial quantities of scrap metal and other steelmaking coproducts and byproducts. In 2020, U. S. Steel recycled approximately 3 million tons of scrap steel in our integrated mills and at the Fairfield Works EAF which will only increase with the addition of Big River Steel EAFs. Steel can be recycled over and over without any loss of quality in the material itself.

Environmental Areas of Focus

U. S. Steel’s current environmental areas of focus align with the results of our ESG Materiality Assessment.