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Producing green steel in Scotland is vital to end the climate crisis

The embers of Scotland’s proud steel production industry could yet be rekindled in a move that would see Scotland become the producers of some of the greenest steel in the world, according to Zero Waste Scotland.

25 Oct 21

In a new paper published today (Monday 25 October 2021) titled ‘How Should Scotland Manage its Scrap Steel?’, Zero Waste Scotland’s analysts detail the ‘clear and obvious’ environmental benefits of using Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) technology, powered by Scotland’s low-carbon electricity grid, to remanufacture scrap steel in Scotland. 

The advantages include:

  • Savings of 60 percent in carbon emissions currently incurred. Today, we export scrap steel to other countries in a process which takes 1.6 tonnes of greenhouse gases to produce one tonne of steel, whereas moving to EAF-based steel production in Scotland would reduce this to 0.64 tonnes;
  • Creating highly skilled green jobs in Scotland, and;
  • Embedding resilience in meeting Scotland’s steel needs now and in the future by reducing our reliance on overseas imports.

Dr Charlotte Stamper, Partner for Energy Infrastructure at Zero Waste Scotland and co-author of the report, said:

“Our findings show that Scotland exports almost 820,000 tonnes of scrap steel per year for remelting in other countries. In many of those places, they still use methods which require large amounts of coal and the addition of virgin iron ore to operate – and this carries a high carbon cost.

“If Scotland were to instead invest in modern Electric Arc Furnace technology, we could operate these using 100% scrap and power them using Scotland’s low carbon electricity rather than coal. We would also no longer export valuable materials, strengthening Scotland’s resilience by securing domestic steel supply chains are in place to keep Scotland’s economy running in times of global material shortages.

“This move makes sense as part of the underpinning of Scotland’s transition towards a circular economy. By switching to a Scottish-based EAF technology for steel production, we would save 790,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, which is more than 1% of Scotland’s annual global footprint.

“Whilst the establishment of this industry would also bring economic and social benefits, this paper looks first at the environmental case, which is clear and obvious. Simply put, the opportunity is there for the taking.”

Zero Waste Scotland’s analysis also highlights that Scotland currently has one of the lowest carbon electricity grids in the world. This advantage means that if Scotland delivered on EAF-operated steel production it would be some of the greenest steel in the world.

The paper is part of a series of reports released by Zero Waste Scotland looking at the circular opportunities for the energy transition in Scotland, including onshore wind decommissioning and the future of batteries. The onshore wind report forecasts that decommissioning of onshore wind turbines will generate 1M tonnes of scrap steel by 2050.

These reports highlight a significant opportunity for Scotland - used parts and materials will become available as a local resource for remanufacturing and reprocessing, securing green jobs and future resource supply – which will be key to a just and effective energy transition.

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Notes For Editors

The single greatest cause of the climate crisis in Scotland is all the goods, materials and services we produce, consume and discard, too often after just one use. Switching to the circular economy will help make things last by first reducing, reusing, repairing, remaking and finally recycling. About Zero Waste Scotland: Zero Waste Scotland exists to lead Scotland to use products and resources responsibly, focusing on where we can have the greatest impact on climate change. Using evidence and insight, our goal is to inform policy, and motivate individuals and businesses to embrace the environmental, economic, and social benefits of a circular economy. We are a not-for-profit environmental organisation, funded by the Scottish Government and European Regional Development Fund.

More information on all Zero Waste Scotland’s programmes can be found at https://www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/. You can also keep up to date with the latest from Zero Waste Scotland via our social media channels - Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn

For media enquiries contact: Sophie Thirkell, Communications Consultant (mat cover), Zero Waste Scotland Mobile: 07966 284095 Email: sophie.thirkell@zerowastescotland.org.uk

Hollie Fisher, Communications Officer, Zero Waste Scotland Telephone: 01786 239712 Email: hollie.fisher@zerowastescotland.org.uk

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