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Boosting steel scrap recycling in the EU Debunking myths & setting a clear pathway to decarbonise steel through recycling

13 February 2023

Europe champions steel recycling, both in terms of quantity and quality delivered to steel mills every year. Since 2007, the quality of recycled steel materials is defined in an EU-27 specifications which are based themselves on earlier specifications (1995 EUROFER – EFR specifications). These specifications standardize the qualities (grades) of recycled steel scrap that are delivered by the recycling industry to steel mills. It ensues from these specifications that steel recycling facilities use as inputs waste and scrap containing ferrous metals which are reprocessed into recycled steel scrap meeting these specifications (e.g. as E1, E2…E40 quality grades). These recycled materials are used by steel mills in Europe and globally as a substitute or as a complement to iron ore, thus enabling major carbon savings and circular economy gains. The European steel recycling industry currently recycles on average 100 million tons of ferrous waste for about €40 billion turnover and employs several thousand non-outsourceable workers across Europe.  On average 80% of that amount is used domestically by European steel mills and 20% are exported. With a supply of recycled steel scrap that structurally exceeds the demand in Europe, there is no risk, presently or in a foreseeable future, of supply shortages that could justify trade restrictions. In a similar fashion, while recycled steel scrap plays an essential role to decarbonize steelmaking in the EU and globally, recycled steel scrap cannot be labelled as being a critical raw material since it is everything but scarce, at least in the EU.