How Steel Gets Recycled

Did you know that 2/3 of US steel production comes from salvaged steel? While the demolition industry can’t take credit for all that salvaged steel, we certainly play a big part. By recycling steel, we can reduce environmental impact and save money by reusing materials. The steel recycled by demolition contractors is mainly from used rebar and I-beams. Other sources of steel recycling include cars and appliances.

Regardless of where the steel comes from, it will go through three phases on its journey to becoming new steel. We call these phases the three S’s.


The first step is to ensure the steel has been properly screened and the trucks aren’t delivering any hazardous or dangerous materials to the recycling center. When a building gets demolished, you never know what will end up in the debris pile. We have to make sure we sort the steel away from any asbestos, lead, refrigerating fluids, and other harmful materials.


In most cases, a massive shredder will be used to break apart the materials into more manageable pieces. These shredders are made of spinning cylindrical hammers that weigh 450 pounds or more and rotate at 500 RPMs. Now that the steel has been shredded into fist-sized pieces, it travels down a series of conveyor belts on its way to be sorted.


Magnets are used to sort out ferrous and non-ferrous metals. Non-ferrous metals do not contain iron, are not magnetic, and are usually more resistant to corrosion than ferrous metals. Some examples of non-ferrous metals are aluminum and copper. Separating ferrous and non-ferrous metals is important because they have very different uses. Once everything is sorted, the material can be sold to manufacturers for a wide variety of uses.