Steel, an eco-responsible choice for manufacturing a container?

Written by: Renaud de Montbron

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Time to read 6 min

To deal with the pollution caused by plastic, alternatives exist. Among the most watched: steel. If the metal is already widely used, better knowledge of it allows us to foresee a more responsible future. At Neo by Nature, we have made the eco-friendly choice of steel. Here's why.

AN ENVIRONMENTAL CONTEXT

To improve the environmental impact of our practices, we must focus on everyday products, those which, integrated into our habits, can multiply the effects of eco-responsible behavior. From the point of view of personal hygiene, "washing yourself" while respecting the environment begins by limiting the consumption of water dedicated to this use: using an economical shower head, installing a foamer, timing the shower time are all ways to limit our ecological impact.


But it is possible to go beyond just saving water resources. Uses in the bathroom also have direct consequences on the climate. Cosmetics and all beauty products cannot therefore escape this central question: how, while taking care of ourselves, can we improve the consequences of our behavior on the environment? Today, a glance in the dedicated sections of supermarkets is enough to take stock of this situation: soap and shower gel containers are mainly made of plastic, the same material which takes hundreds of years to degrade, pollutes oceans and soils. To think about this small revolution in the earthenware of our bathrooms, questioning the nature and composition of the containers is therefore a promising avenue. How can we get rid of “all plastic”, this by-product of the oil industry? Looking more closely, steel, already installed in our daily lives, presents interesting advantages. Here are some explanations to understand how steel is an eco-responsible choice for manufacturing a container.

RESISTANT AND DURABLE?

To understand the qualities of steel, we must understand its nature. It is from the alloy of iron and a tiny percentage of carbon (between 0.15 and 2%), that steel draws its strength. The higher the carbon content, the more breakage resistance this metal has. Conversely, a lesser amount of carbon makes the alloy more ductile. In other words, steel can be stretched until it becomes thin, without breaking. Hot or cold, this metal can, under physical stress by compression or extension, undergo changes in shape, without breaking.


In terms of strength, it is difficult to compete with the properties of steel. Known for its high degree of resistance, this metal has a longer lifespan than most competing materials. From titanic monuments like the Millau viaduct to the pacemaker, steel is everywhere. According to the French Steel Federation, there are 2000 grades to meet the needs and associated constraints of construction, heavy industry or medicine...among others.


While steel can withstand shocks, it is also known for its resistance to corrosion. It is not without reason that it is commonly nicknamed “inox”, short for “stainless”. Here too, steel draws its advantage from the composition of its alloy. By adding chromium (more than 10.5%), an adhesive and invisible layer is formed on the surface of the metal which protects it from corrosion and rust. With steel, there is no risk of leaking or breaking. The content is perfectly protected. The immediate environment too.


All the qualities of the steel used as a container have a direct consequence on the properties of the contents. This material, perfectly inert, does not allow any exchange between interior or exterior environments. Concretely, no chemical reaction can occur with other substances. Therefore, and unlike plastic which causes health damage to the body, steel does not release any material.

To keep the properties of sensitive content intact, intended for medicine for example, this property is essential.


The durable nature of steel containers also allows a reduction in the quantity of waste generated by daily consumption. Opting for steel therefore means reducing the release of plastic particles into nature.


Although resistant, steel can nevertheless suffer, under strong physical or mechanical stress, deterioration capable of putting an end to its use. Destination the trash? Not so sure…

AS WASTE, STEEL IS STILL A RESOURCE

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This is another advantage of steel that is often overlooked: steel is infinitely recyclable. Tin cans, saucepans or aerosol cans can thus be recycled and reused to make new objects or containers. Plastic cannot boast the same advantages. First reason: not all plastics are recyclable. And even though the list grows, reuse is only possible a limited number of times. No problem with steel which can be melted and reformed without limit and without losing any of its properties. In use, recycled steel is just as strong, durable and inert as new steel. Steel scrap therefore constitutes a raw material of choice.


Another argument in favor of recycling steel is the energy cost required to put the famous metal into circulation. Produced from raw materials (iron ore), steel requires a large quantity of energy: extraction of the ore, transport, then transformation in steelworks are all stages which require the consumption of resources, most often of fossil origin. As a result, the production of steel has a significant carbon footprint when it is put into circulation.


To further prove this, a Senate information report in 2019 highlighted the benefits of recycling. The document concludes in fact that “a ton of recycled steel saves more than twice its weight in raw materials, 70% of its weight in energy, 1.5 times its weight in CO2”.


Finally, recycling also means reducing the quantity of waste and being part of a circular economy dynamic. Natural iron resources, non-renewable resources, are preserved and recycling is the source of new wealth. Planet and economy therefore benefit from this.

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MORE STEEL, LESS GREENHOUSE GAS

Manufacturing and recycling are only one segment of the life cycle of a steel bottle. To convince yourself that steel is an eco-responsible choice for manufacturing a container, you must also understand it from a transport perspective. No mystery, this sector remains the one that emits the most GHGs. In 2020, it is responsible for 28.7% of national emissions, according to the Ministry of Ecological Transition. In this area too, steel has a card to play against its competitors.


Lighter than glass containers, for example, steel containers are also easier to transport. From this angle, a 2020 WWF France report confirms the clear advantage of steel: “a glass container can be 2 to 3 times heavier than the same stainless steel container, for the same use/volume” . This reduces the carbon footprint of steel compared to its glass competitor.


Although heavier than plastic (8 to 10 times depending on use), steel still has a role to play over time. The figures from this same study are eloquent on this point: for only around twenty uses, the steel container saves 34% of greenhouse gas emissions compared to the single use of a container. in plastic. It’s also 99% less plastic waste…


The strength of steel also has a double advantage from this angle of transport: less fragile than other containers, their handling does not cause breakage.


Finally, stainless steel is very easy to maintain. No need to use specific products like these aggressive solutions offered for sale for sanitary facilities. A simple Marseille soap is enough for cleaning. Another good point for steel which can be cleaned with a simple wipe of a sponge. Applied regularly, this gesture ensures that the bottle retains all its shine.

 

In terms of sustainable development, steel therefore has excellent properties, guaranteeing demanding environmental performance.


To make steel a more eco-responsible choice, professionals in the sector are continuing their efforts and developing innovative steels, lighter and more resistant, which make it possible to further reduce the weight of shaped objects and therefore their impact on the environment. .


Resistant to different uses, corrosion and ideally made to be recycled endlessly, this inert material has a bright future ahead of it and a real environmental card to play against its competitors.


For all these reasons, when we had to choose an eco-responsible, unique and refillable container, our choice “naturally” fell on steel. To contain our 100% organic shower gel, is steel a metal of the future? At Neo by Nature, we firmly believe in it!

CONCLUSION

For all these reasons, when we had to choose an eco-responsible, unique and refillable container, our choice “naturally” fell on steel. To contain our shower gel, is steel a metal of the future? At Neo by Nature, we firmly believe in it!

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