Consumerism has forged its way into human culture since the early 1900s. Corporations, especially in the post-war era, planted the seed in the consumer’s mind that the product they were enjoying would become outdated at some point and that it should be replaced by a newer version, even though it still served its original function. Corporations subsequently flooded markets with ‘new-and-improved’ products, leaving fully-functional products to be discarded.
Today, the spotlight is on sustainable alternatives and minimising waste. So much so that companies are cutting-back on wasteful expenditure and incorporating sustainable solutions. But the culture of wastefulness and unsustainability is still prevalent, and industries still have a way to go to incorporate sustainable materials. Take, for example, the outdated infrastructure in water distribution systems. The loss of water is rooted in the leakage of pipe systems and as much as 35% of the world’s treated water – and 41% of South Africa’s treated water – is lost to these leaks. Or consider the sheer amount of natural resources it takes to construct a single building. According to the USGBC, 40% of the world’s raw materials are used in the construction of buildings. Consequently, in a time of increasingly limited resources, the environmental impact of commodities or materials are eclipsing the conventional benefits thereof.
Stainless steel has proved its unparalleled versatility as a material critical to the applications and technologies of the future. Let’s take a closer look:
Recycling, re-using and downcycling is integral in a non-wasteful society. Today, its estimated that 630 million tonnes of steel is recycled annually – more than all other materials combined – saving around 945 million tonnes of CO2. Stainless steel is 100% recyclable, making it the preferred and sustainable choice in various applications.
Stainless steel is considered the preferred material for the distribution and purification of water. Exacerbating the water shortage currently being experienced in South Africa is the wastage or losses stemming from outdated infrastructure. Case studies show that 95% of treated water leaks occur in the small diameter service pipes connecting the distribution pipes to water meters. According to SASSDA, approximately 40% of Johannesburg’s treated water supply is non revenue water that amounts to a loss of R1.1 billion per year, with 73.3% lost due to leaks. Furthermore, in a study conducted by the International Stainless Steel Forum on Tokyo’s dwindling water supply, water losses were reduced to 17% in 1980, and to just 2% by 2012, after the city replaced all service pipes with stainless steel pipes, during the 1970s until 2012.
Whether it’s solar water heating, photovoltaic cells, or solar concentrators, the properties of stainless steel make it an essential material in solar energy-generating applications. Thanks to its corrosion resistance, stainless steel tanks used for molten salt on solar farms enables heat storage for 10-15 hours. The technology enables solar energy facilities with uninterrupted energy generation, contributing to the feasibility of solar energy on a commercial scale.
Renewable energy generation
Renewable energy is becoming increasingly crucial as a power source as the availability of fossil fuels plummet. The Stalawind Towers are wind turbine towers constructed from duplex stainless steel tubes fixed together to make a hybrid tower 160m in height. Each additional metre of a wind turbine tower, in excess of 100m in height, increases the average energy output of that turbine by 1%. The durability and strength of duplex stainless steel ensure a longer life-cycle for the tower, making it a sustainable solution for energy generation.
Most structures are built to last for over a century, but conventional materials are susceptible to the degradation of the elements and require frequent maintenance. A decade after its 1889 completion date, the Eiffel Tower had to be re-painted to keep the iconic beacon beaming. Every seven years, 250 000 square metres of surface area needs to be painted with 60 tonnes of paint. This example paints a picture that structures constructed from conventional materials become extremely costly for city councils.
When it comes to the choice of materials for inputs or modern applications, stainless steel is in pole position to reap the benefits of the demand for sustainability. Harnessing the power of precision technology, National Stainless Steel Centre offers a broad range of value-added services to custom-fit our clients’ requirements. With our state-of-the-art processing machinery and experienced staff, we supply a product of the highest quality, meeting TÜV national and international standards.