From the Bronze Age to the Iron Age, metals have defined eras in the history of mankind. If our current era were defined in a similar way, it would undoubtedly be called the age of steel.
Steel is the backbone of our buildings, vehicles and industries, and the rate of its production and consumption is often seen as indicators of a nation’s development. Today it is the most commonly used metal and the most recycled material in the world, with 1,864 million metric tons of raw steel produced in 2020.
This infographic uses data from the World Steel Association to visualize 50 years of crude steel production, demonstrating the relentless creation of this important material in our world.
Steel production has tripled over the past 50 years
Over the past 50 years, global steel production has more than tripled, despite countries like the United States and Russia reducing their domestic production and relying more on imports. Meanwhile, China and India have steadily ramped up production to become the top two steel producing countries.
Despite its current dominance, China can prepare to cut domestic steel production to reduce the risks of overproduction and ensure carbon neutrality is achieved by 2060.
With iron ore and steel prices skyrocketing last year, US demand could soon subside depending on the Biden administration’s actions. A potential infrastructure bill will bring investment in America’s steel mills to secure future supplies, and any withdrawal from the Trump administration’s 2018 tariffs on imported steel could ease supply constraints even further.
Secret of Steel: Endless Recycling
The steel, which is mainly composed of iron ore, is an alloy that also contains less than 2% carbon and 1% manganese and other trace elements. While the defining difference may seem small, steel can be 1,000 times stronger than iron.
However, the true strength of steel lies in its endless recyclability without sacrificing quality. Regardless of brand or application, steel can always be recycled, with new steel products containing an average of 30% recycled steel.