For Outokumpu, sustainability is not just about making stainless steel that is 100% recyclable, efficient and long-lasting. We also recognize that we need to help protect the environment by proactively developing our production processes, energy and material efficiency, and solutions for the by-products from our operations. Read more about our environmental initiatives here:
Outokumpu’s approach to sustainability is based on three pillars:
  • Climate change
  • Protecting the environment in the locations where we operate 
  • Our people and society at large

In a previous article we discussed climate change. This time we focus on the second pillar – protecting the environment in the locations where we operate. The biggest local environmental impacts of stainless steel production are dust emissions into the air, water discharges from production and the waste created in the production process.

Ship transferring goods by the Tornio harbour

 

Keeping dust emissions at low levels

Steel melting and rolling processes generate dust and scales that are collected, treated and, whenever possible, recycled in our own production. Our dust filtering systems are extremely efficient and remove 99% of the particles. That means that the level of dust emissions from our melt shops is well within the limits of environmental permits.

As our main raw material is recycled steel, we take all possible precautionary measures to check the input material for any unwanted content, such as mercury and radioactive
contaminated material.

 

Reusing water

Water is used in our production process in annealing, pickling, and cooling. Our main source is river water. But we also use groundwater, municipal water and rainwater at some locations. All the water we use is treated and recycled as much as possible. All wastewater is treated in our own treatment systems or in municipal water treatment plants before it is discharged. The main discharges into water are metals and nitrates. All our production sites have environmental permits with conditions regarding water discharge and compliance with these conditions is supervised by the relevant authorities.

 

Tornio_2175Limiting the impacts of mining operations

Outokumpu operates a chrome mine in Kemi, Finland. We are a member of The Finnish Network for Sustainable Mining and Kemi mine is committed to the Finnish sustainability standard for mining. The environmental impacts of the mine are very limited due to the nature of the process. The minerals are in oxide form and very stable with only minimal amount of sulfur compounds.

Chemicals are not used in the beneficiation process as this is based on gravity separation. Kemi mine is almost self-sufficient with water as it recycles water on site and collects rainwater.

 

Biodiversity

The production of stainless steel does not occupy or reserve large areas of land or have a significant effect on the biodiversity of the surrounding natural environment. Our production sites are not located in sensitive areas. However, we have identified areas of high biodiversity value that we either own or are adjacent to our sites in Calvert,
Alabama in the US, Dahlerbrück, Germany and in Kemi and Tornio, Finland. There is no negative impact on the sensitive areas according to impact studies.

In a future article we will focus on the third pillar of our sustainability strategy: Our people and society at large.

For more information about Outokumpu’s sustainability strategy and to download our sustainability report for 2019: https://www.outokumpu.com/en/sustainability/sustainability-at-outokumpu

KemiBongari