Metal Recycling Insights: The History and Life Cycle of Steel

Posted on December 6, 2012 by - Scrap Metal Recycling

Ferrous Processing & Trading is one of the largest metal recycling companies in the industry, and one of the most important metals for FPT and other metal recycling companies is steel.  Steel is a crucial part of the modern world, due to its important and widespread use in infrastructure and manufacturing.  Take a few examples from the manufacturing industry: the average household appliance contains about sixty-five percent steel, and the average car is about sixty-six percent steel.  When these items become obsolete and are discarded as scrap metal, companies like Ferrous Processing & Trading collect them and prepare them to be recycled and reused for a new purpose.

The steel industry, as well as the scrap metal recycling industry, creates many jobs worldwide, and companies like FPT are part of a worldwide economic engine.  Yet, many people take the steel industry and the steel recycling industry for granted.  So let’s take a moment to understand the history, process, and types of steel that have evolved throughout human history and continue to drive modern development today.

The History of Steel

Steel artifacts from East African sites have dated back to 1400 BCE, proving steel has been made for at least three thousand years. Chemically speaking, steel is an alloy made up of two or more elements, one of which is always iron.  In order to combine these elements into steel, temperatures are needed that exceed 1370 degrees Celsius.  Throughout history, man has created different methods for reaching these extreme temperatures and creating various types of steel alloys.  The process is steel making is a very subtle art due to the sensitivity of the process.  Even the smallest changes in the manufacturing process greatly affect the outcome – leading to a variety of steels with differing molecular shapes and subsequent physical properties.

Modern Steelmaking

In modern times, new steel is generally made from a process known as oxygen steelmaking.  The process involves molten iron being poured into a container known as a ladle and transferred to a furnace to be mixed with scrap steel material.  The recycled steel is mixed with the iron as pure oxygen is blown into the steel and iron to raise the temperature in order to burn off carbon and purify the steel.  Other chemical cleaning agents may be introduced later to create slag, a material that forms on the surface of the molten steel to absorb chemical impurities. The purpose of slag is to drain impurities from the steel.

The purified recycled steel is now ready to be poured into new molds or mixed with other chemical compounds to create new varieties of steel for specific purposes.  The name steel does not refer to only one kind of metal, but rather it is an umbrella term for many iron-based alloys.

Steel scrap metal can be sourced in many different ways including commercial scrap metal, construction scrap metal, manufacturing scrap metal, and household steel scrap metal such as old appliances.  No matter its origin, recycled steel plays a big part in supporting more sustainable and environmentally friendly steel-making practices worldwide.

FPT Steel Recycling Services

Ferrous Processing & Trading is one of North America’s premier processors, sellers, and recyclers of steel scrap and scrap metals of all kinds.  They are supported by the unique skills and experience of the management, commercial, and operations teams.  Their ownership assures both financial strength and a deep commitment to the industry and their customers.  FPT’s reputation is built on the core values of integrity, expertise, responsiveness, and creativity in the scrap metal recycling industry.


Ferrous Processing & Trading is a key supplier to the metals industry of North America.  They are also a major scrap metals management company for the U.S. auto industry.  From every stage of the metal recycling process from the assembly line to the used parts pile then through the scrap processing yard and into the furnace, FPT has the right answers for handling and marketing metal.


Ferrous Processing & Trading

3400 E. Lafayette

Detroit, MI 48207