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Latin America: A Life-Cycle Approach to Steel

steel block in a row

With its excellent strength to weight ratio, durability and almost complete recyclability, steel manufacturers around the world believe their product has a strong role to play in green building and sustainable construction.

Unfortunately, however, with iron having to be superheated to 1,777 degrees Celsius during steel production, there are significant issues with the manufacturing process.

As a result, the industry has been working hard around the world to manage and assess the life-cycle impact across the supply chain from raw material extraction to end of life recycling or disposal, an approach it hopes will help minimize negative environmental impacts early in the process while building on the material’s durability and ability to be recycled.

Participants in a conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina on October 23 looked at how a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) – a tool designed to assess a product’s environmental impact – could be rolled out throughout Latin America.

Hosted by the World Steel Association (worldsteel) in partnership with the Alacero, the Latin American Steel Association, and steel manufacturer Ternium, the conference focused on the importance of taking a life cycle approach to evaluating environmental impacts throughout the steel value chain in different market sectors.

Edwin Basson, director general of worldsteel, said the concept of LCA is increasingly being incorporated into standards and regulations and has become a critical element in terms of material decision-making in the design of products, including buildings and manufactured products.

construction workers steel

 “Only by assessing the use of steel through all its phases can we truly understand the potential environmental impacts of products,” Basson says.

According to Argentine Chamber of Exporters president Enrique Mantilla, steel has a number of potential advantages in terms of the social, economic and environmental impacts of projects. He said it is important to incorporate life cycle considerations into sustainable strategies across Latin America.

“We need to understand the value of steel products as being part of the solution rather than part of the problem,” he says.

worldsteel has undertaken a number of environment related initiatives in recent years, including the establishment of a worldwide database to capture life cycle inventory data and being a sponsor of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Life Cycle Initiative (LC Ini).

The conference comes as steel makers around the world are ramping up their environmental commitments, with recent data showing that participation in industry-wide sustainability programs is on the rise.

The conference followed an earlier one in Beijing focusing on how steel makers around the world can embrace a product life-cycle approach to the environment.

By Andrew Heaton
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