Sitting around a table, one might not recognize this collection of people before them as the brain trust of one of the U.S.’ larger businesses. Work boots and jeans provide a glimpse into the storied past of Schnitzer Steel, a company started in 1906 “as a one-man scrap metal operation” that has since become one of America’s largest recyclers of scrap metal, a leading provider of used and recycled auto parts and a manufacturer of finished steel products. I know this two ways. The first is because I looked up this company online. And, the second is that I recently had the honor of being in the same room as the Schnitzer Steel decision-makers. The table alluded to earlier just so happened to be a conference table around which these folks joked, exchanged pleasantries and oh, by the way, discussed business decisions that could effectively swing the operations of the metal industry toward greener, more environmentally friendly practices.
Schnitzer is recycling more than ever at its Portland-based facility. Image courtesy of
That’s not to say the current operations of Schnitzer are harmful to our planet — far from it. This company takes to heart one of the cornerstones of eco-friendliness daily (and in massive quantities) when it recycles tons (literally) of scrap materials that come mostly in the form of unwanted automobiles. Recycling and reuse are about the best practices we as a society can do to preserve our natural surroundings and the Schnitzer website informs us why this is true when it offers the following statistics: Our businesses take obsolete machinery and end-of-life cars and recycle their metal so it can be used to create new finished steel products. Consider the following benefits:
  • By using recycled metals, the steel industry saves enough energy each year to power 18 million households
  • Recycling one ton of steel conserves:
    • 2,500 pounds of iron ore
    • 1,400 pounds of coal
    • 120 pounds of limestone
  • Using recycled iron and steel instead of virgin ore to make new steel results in:
    • 74% savings in energy
    • 90% savings in virgin materials use
    • 40% reduction in water use
    • 97% reduction in mining wastes
In the same way someone wouldn’t recognize corporate higher-ups to be so down to earth in jeans and work boots, many would fail to realize that the fields of junk a mega scrap metal company owns could be a site of one of the greenest businesses in our country. And, with the way this company pursues making its operations even more environmentally conscious, it’s no cheap talk that its motto is, “Strength, Sustainability, Success.”