Reclaimed Steel


Steel – An Alloy with a Heart and Soul


In these days of austerity and endless DIY TV programmes, ‘upcycling’ (or recycling to you and me) is riding a wave of popularity.  One person’s junk becomes another’s garden plant pot!  Worn out household items are taking on new lives rather than filling up landfill rubbish dumps.  To those with a creative flare, the more well-loved and battered something is, the more aesthetic value it appears to have.


This enthusiasm for recycling is not unique to the weekly rubbish collection or the quirky furniture shop that sells these restored artefacts.  Steel is reported to be the most recycled material in North America with more steel recycled than paper, plastic and aluminium combined!  It is the number one recycled material because it can be recycled over and over again without any degradation.  Neat, huh?  Amazingly, the steel in your car can be recycled and used to build your washing machine, which in turn can be recycled to make millions of paper clips! 


Currently part of the famous Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is being demolished and there are plans to use the reclaimed steel from the bridge to build a house and community space, dedicated to the memory of the bridge and those that have worked on it.  Even cold, hard steel can have sentimental value.


Recycling steel isn’t new.  During World War II, there was a national drive to remove railings from parks and buildings.  This metal was allegedly melted down and reused to make weapons.  However heart-warming this tale of national solidarity, there appears no actual evidence that the metal collected contributed to the numbers of weapons going to the war effort.  It may have all been just a public relations exercise.  It has been suggested that in the end the collected metal was in fact dumped in the Thames estuary.  There are tales of ships coming into the estuary having compass bearings skewed by these large quantities of iron and steel abandoned to the river.  This is very sad if it is true, but the story does demonstrate the versatility of steel and its continuing importance.  Either way, upcycling is here to stay and rightfully so.


Alongside the cost benefits of recycling steel there is an environmental benefit too.  It requires less energy to re-melt scrap steel than it does to produce new.  The less new steel used, the less CO2 emissions.  This is good news but not all steel products can be made from recycled steel, and there is of course still demand for new.


Just think, next time you pick up a knife or fork what might it have been in a previous incarnation!  Who knows – your balcony may once have been part of a Mercedes Benz, or indeed the famous Tri-star emblem itself, sitting proudly on the bonnet and signifying dominance over land, sea and air.  Perhaps the railings outside the office were once part of an old suspension bridge, disused railway line or demolished office block?


In South London the imagination does not have to work that hard as railings that had been once removed were replaced post-war with old ARP stretchers used to carry the wounded from the front line.  Some of these stories may not be true but there is definitely a hint of romance behind steel recycling.  Next time you stand out on a modern Juliet balcony, do not dismiss the romantic possibilities straight away!  Steel, upcycling and some imagination can save money, bring a smile and keep the planet spinning that little bit longer. 

Further Reading :


Architectural metalwork installations in Sheffield

Stainless steel 

Mild steel

Hot dip galvanizing


Powdercoating RAL colours