ABSTRACT: Stocks of products in use are the pivotal engines that drive anthropogenic metal cycles: They support the lives of people by providing services to them; they are sources for future secondary resources (scrap); and demand for in-use stocks generates demand for metals. Despite their great importance and their impacts on other parts of the metal cycles and the environment, the study of in-use stocks has heretofore been widely neglected. Here we investigate anthropogenic and geogenic iron stocks in the United States (U.S.) by analyzing the iron cycle over the period 1900-2004. Our results show the following. (i) Over the last century, the U.S. iron stock in use increased to 3,200 Tg (million metric tons), which is the same order of magnitude as the remaining U.S. iron stock in identified ores. On a global scale, anthropogenic iron stocks are less significant compared with natural ores, but their relative importance is increasing. (ii) With a perfect recycling system, the U.S. could substitute scrap utilization for domestic mining. (iii) The per-capita in-use iron stock reached saturation at 11-12 metric tons in approximately 1980. This last finding, if applicable to other economies as well, could allow a significant improvement of long-term forecasting of steel demand and scrap availability in emerging market economies and therefore has major implications for resource sustainability, recycling technology, and industrial and governmental policy.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 11/2006; 103(44):16111-6. · 9.68 Impact Factor