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Blog: The best example of circular economy in action can be found in Tornio

The modern stainless steel industry is a prime example of the circular economy in action. In fact, the Tornio factory in Outokumpu is the largest material recycling center in Europe.

When you buy a new washing machine, you can get your old pot back in a completely new form. Your good old friend from the kitchen may have ended up at the Outokumpu Tornio factory and melted in recycled steel and then used by a washing machine maker as part of a brand new product.

Stainless steel is a sustainable material that fits perfectly into the circular economy. This ranges from producing new products from recycled steel, recovering and recycling whatever is reasonable in our production, to selling by-products of the manufacturing process to replace natural resources.

Recycling saves resources and stainless steel is both made from recycled materials and fully recyclable without any degradation in quality. Sustainability is also important from a life cycle perspective. Generally, the material properties of stainless steel allow lower life cycle costs combined with lower environmental impact.

Our stainless steel plants are important recycling facilities. The Tornio plant in Outokumpu is the largest material recycling center in Europe, with more than one million tonnes of scrap processed each year.

Recycle and reuse as much as possible

Outokumpu’s share of recycled materials is the highest in the steel industry: over 90%. In addition to recycled steel, this figure includes recovered secondary streams, such as cast iron dust and rolling scales. Steel recycled from stainless steel and carbon steel is our most important raw material.

We also make every effort to recycle production by-products as much as possible. In addition to metals, other materials, such as slag formers, acids and gases, are needed in the production process although they are not part of stainless steel products. Some of these inputs are necessary to minimize or prevent emissions to the environment.

To the extent reasonable, these materials are also recovered and recycled in the process. For example, the acids used are continuously regenerated for reuse, and the hydrogen from the bright annealing process is recovered in the process furnace incineration.

The slag generated as a by-product of Tornio’s ferrochrome production can be used almost entirely. The slag is used in the insulation of road construction or in the production of concrete. The special properties of slag ferrochrome road insulation include, among others, better insulation against frost and better load capacity for royal sand raw material. The road structure can be made thinner and thus save virgin aggregate.

A sustainable future made possible by stainless steel

Increasing the recycled content of stainless steel is the most effective way for Outokumpu to reduce the overall environmental footprint. Outokumpu’s emissions are the lowest in the industry due to the high rate of use of recycled materials. According to a study by the Fraunhofer Institut, using one tonne of austenitic scrap saves 4.3 tonnes of CO2.

We are always looking for the best ways to recycle metals from the dust of our smelters. These secondary flows are either treated on site or by an external recycling facility in our smelting workshops. Metal recycling is the main driver for reducing emissions of upstream materials.

At Outokumpu, we work for a world that lasts forever. A kid somewhere may be baking sweet buns using a stainless steel pan and one day as an adult he may wash dishes in a dishwasher that includes stainless steel from it. of the same dish that was used in the cooking process. Our products and innovations not only help us, but also people around the world.


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