Why Metal Manufacturing’s Not the Enviro Grinch it Was

Environmental friendliness and metal manufacturing aren’t two realities you generally speak of in the same breath. After all, the forging fires and spark-zapped smokescreen that characterize this industry’s existence aren’t typically conducive to green pursuits. By some estimates, the production of steel—from extracting the iron ore to smelting the steel itself—accounts for more than three percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.

But this is a globe that’s on an evolutionary path. New technologies are making the production of metal products less harmful to their surroundings. And the products being forged are more sustainable than their predecessors.

Here’s a highlight reel of why we should feel hopeful about metal production and the world.

  • Increasingly, metal-forging businesses are adopting manufacturing processes that incorporate eco-friendly welding techniques, like vacuum soldering, friction welding and diffusive welding.
  • Some metal manufacturers get the green nod not for the way they manufacture their products, but for the end game of what they produce—i.e., metal that can help support green technology.
  • The Canadian government has a raft of incentives for metal fabrication companies that switch to green initiatives in an effort to reduce their impact on the environment.
  • That the metal fabrication and welding industries are making a global shift to operate in a more environmentally conscientious manner makes them a selling point for ecologically conscious young folks considering a career. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted that employment of sheet metal workers will grow seven percent between 2014 and 2024.
  • The green initiatives that regularly attract attention for being more sustainable alternatives to the legacy bad guys—think natural gas pipelines and solar panels—actually require an abundance of metal to function.
  • Material chemists at MIT have developed a way to produce steel without carbon dioxide as a side product. Considering that the conventional production of every tonne of steel results in the creation of almost two tonnes of carbon dioxide, this development is significant.
  • Where a conventionally produced 2,000-square-foot home would require the clear-cutting of close to an acre of trees, a similarly structured home made of steel would only call for the scrap from six cars. Resource preservation rocks.
  • Many of today’s steel plants don’t produce any carbon dioxide emissions at all. What’s more, most of the water used to generate steel is recycled after use.
  • Because pre-painted and granular-coated metal roofing re-emits most of the solar heat that’s absorbed, buildings constructed beneath these toppers can save 40% on heating and cooling costs.
  • As more municipalities begin to require sustainable building standards for new construction projects, steel—which meets the requirements for a whack of green construction certifying agencies—is becoming a more popular option.

Whether it’s integrating new welding methods, introducing more efficient manufacturing and production, or offering up metal when it’s the kinder choice, the metal fabrication world is gradually establishing itself as a friend to the planet.

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