Articles in Category: Green

Gas tax or no gas tax? Thanks to the proposed gas tax holiday, that’s the question of the day for American presidential candidates. This isn’t a political blog, so you won’t hear comments about whether or not this is fiscally irresponsible and an attempt to buy votes or a chance to alleviate the pocketbooks of those in need. Whatever the case, at MetalMiner, a gas tax holiday isn’t our main concern. What is our concern? The fact this plan represents. The fact that most energy prices are soaring.

It isn’t just the fuel in your car. According to several news pieces, including  a recent Newswire article, “The EPA reports that $40 billion is spent annually in the United States to cool buildings. This accounts for one-sixth of all electricity generated in a year. These staggering statistics, coupled with the rising cost of heating and cooling homes, have homeowners looking for ways to save the earth and save money on energy costs.”

Metals can help. In fact, there are several reasons to consider metal roofing for your home. Read more

Here’s an old idea that has caught the attention of commentators  this week but  with a new twist due in large part to the high price of the metals involved. Metals and material have been recycled for decades and in many countries considerable encouragement is given by governments in an effort to reduce raw material and energy consumption. But the rise in the price of gold, silver and many other metals used in the electronics industry has given the recycling of mobile phones, laptops and other electronic devices a major boost and promoted the phrase urban mining. The figure that caught my eye was a direct correlation to the mining industry ” one ton of ore from a gold mine produces just 5 grams (0.18 ounce) of gold on average, whereas one ton of discarded mobile phones can yield 150 grams (5.3 ounces) or more, according to an article in Reuters.

The article goes on to say the same volume of discarded mobile phones also contains around 100 kg (220 lbs) of copper and 3 kg (6.6 lbs) of silver, among other metals. Hence the phrase urban miners used to describe the recycling industry that has grown up around this resource. The company being reported, Eco-System of Honjo, Japan typically produces about 200-300 kg (440-660 lbs) of gold bars a month with a 99.99 percent purity, worth about $5.9 million to $8.8 million. That’s apparently the equivalent of a small gold mine.

In a country with 128 million people with over 80% mobile phone ownership and who on average change them every 2 years 8 months, you would think there would be a never ending supply of raw material. But you would be wrong, only 10-20% of the phones discarded each year are recycled. Why? Largely because of fears that the phones contain personal data, people horde them away rather than risk releasing them for recycling. As PC’s, laptops and now even mobile phones have become the gateway to our bank, share dealings, health records, and in fact every item of sensitive data in our lives the risks are perceived to be ever greater of letting them fall into the wrong hands. Particularly in Japan where the use of the mobile phone is more advanced than in the US or Europe, phones can be used for payment of bills, move funds around bank accounts, pay rail and bus fares. Indeed the mobile phone is becoming the mobile wallet.

It does raise an interesting concept though.

As the world’s reserve of metals becomes ever smaller, to what extent can we access those already used and available in manufactured goods? Certainly we have only scratched the surface so far and the high prices of all metals will encourage this resource to be pursued much more vigorously in the future.

–Stuart Burns

If you get a chance, go see the new movie In Bruge, starring Colin Farrel and Brendan Gleeson. There is a great scene when some American tourists ask Colin Farrel’s character how to get to the top of the Belfry Tower. I can’t tell you Farrel’s punchline, but suffice it to say that to reach the top of the Belfry Tower, one has to climb — and, well, these Americans were in less than perfect shape. Here at MetalMiner, Stuart and I like to discuss and debate various issues. I can’t say that I’m much different from a “stereotypical” American in that I think saving money or making money are two very noble reasons ‘to do something’. We debate this subject because green is one of those topics where the impetus for taking action may be a little different. Hey, it’s not that I’m all about pollution and he’s all about the greater good, but unless someone can show me the money, it’s not likely to get done.

So imagine my delight when I ran across this article in USA Today (of all places) on Subaru’s zero-landfill initiative. The stats are impressive. According to the article, Subaru has managed to recycle or reuse 99.8% of its plant’s garbage. Copper laden slag from welding processes is shipped to Spain for recycling. Steel waste was eliminated by purchasing in sizes that result in less scrap. That removed 102 pounds of steel waste per car! Now some marketing folks might want to emphasize the car maker’s altruistic tendancies….not ruining the earth, it’s desire to be a good corporate citizen. And they aren’t wrong by any means its just that if we were to peel back the onion on many American firms’ reasons for ‘going green’, I think we’d come up with a list that includes: eliminating waste, cost reduction, cutting costs, improving the bottom line, did I say cost reduction? Oh sorry, I’m starting to repeat myself.

Over on SpendMatters, an affiliate blog, I commented on how I think ‘green’ will play out in a recessionary environment. Simply put, green makes sense because it goes hand in hand with eliminating waste. And waste reduction usually equates to cost reduction. We’ve heard arguments against green in the metals industry because well, there is just so many places and things one can do with say slag. But thankfully, companies like Subaru are showing us the way. Heavy industry can ‘go green’ and also ‘lean’. What is also interesting is the play between the two. In the USA Today article, the author Chris Woodyard talks about how some of the JIT operations (a fundamental aspect of Lean), provide opportuntity for green intiatives. With daily deliveries of parts, Subaru takes advantage of empty trucks on the return trip to haul away waste for re-use.

But re-use and recycling will only get you part of the way there. The rest of the challenge involves not creating waste in the first place. Engineering teams today are going beyond ‘design for manufactureabiliy’ to ‘design for sustainability’. And they’ll save a few more dollars in that process as well.

–Lisa Reisman

My husband bought a box of cereal a few weeks ago promoting the fact that it was 75% organic. Never mind what the remaining content contained. Always the skeptic, I expect that a good percentage of these marketing claims are just that…”claims”. Over on SpendMatters editor Jason Busch joked that L’Oreal (the make-up company) had been planning some cost reduction strategies. I posted a comment joking that they are likely using re-cycled plastics (to lower costs of course) and then get to slap the “environmentally friendly, green label” to the product line and charge me more in the process.

But these ploys are just for consumer products right?

Apparently not. According to this Popular Science article, industrial products companies are praising the virtues of Titanium. But the substance does not appear to back up the hype. Steel doesn’t command a price premium. What kinds of items are we talking about? Master Lock locks and golf clubs, two products heavily associated with Titanium.

I got a chuckle out of the simple experiments the author deployed to check authenticity of said products. Essentially, “hold any genuine titanium metal object to a grinding wheel (even a little grindstone on a Dremel tool will do), and it gives off a shower of brilliant white sparks unlike any softer common metal” and you know you are dealing with the real thing. If however, you see shorter yellow sparks this may just be stainless steel. And no sparks may be aluminum. Next time you are at Home Depot thinking about a bike lock, you might just consider the house label.

–Lisa Reisman

If you caught the first part of our series on green innovations in the metals industry, you’ll know that the MetalMiner staff is excited about following the growth and development of green metals. We love hearing about eco-friendly improvements and new practices in the metals industry. The men and women behind GreenAlloys share this excitement for going green, and they decided to take a step to make metals recycling and low-lead products more prominent in our society. Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to talk to Al Barbour, president and CEO of Concast Metals Products Co., the company responsible for GreenAlloys. If you want to be a progressive company or manufacturer today, you need to look at what the end customer wants, he says of his eco-friendly metals company, touted as the next generation of environmentally-friendly alloys and materials. The view of society is moving in this direction, this green direction. This is a trend that will remain long-term. Read more

There’s an age-old adage that one thing is constant ” and it’s change. No, I’m not leading into politics and the 2008 presidential election in the States. Rather, let’s think beyond Super Tuesday and look to the metals industry. With all of the  metals industry’s longstanding practices, are there really ways for metals and metals-related processes and purchases to become eco-friendly? Rest easy, because the answer is a resounding yes. In fact, the metals industry is the vibrant host to several new ecologically aware innovations, and they might be the key to sustainable growth and development. Read more

Home of such influential rockers as the White Stripes, Electric Six, the Detroit Cobras, and the Raconteurs, Detroit was also rocking and rolling with the North American International Auto Show last week. The show will remain open to the public until January 27. Not the biggest, maybe not even the most-loved auto show around, the Detroit show is still well-known as the first international auto show to begin each year. The season begins when Detroit says ready, set, and GO.

There were more than a few highlights from this year’s show, ranging from the Corvette ZR1’s debut  into high society (the only place a car like that can travel, with its $100,000 price tag!) to a country-western star unveiling the Ford F-150 and a cattle drive complete with 120 longhorns  accompanying a Dodge Ram  near Detroit’s Cobo Center. Here’s the new song for cowboys: Save a horse; ride a pickup. The green theme of the Detroit show was also pleasing to the crowd ” as were several new cars from Asian manufacturers.

Why is the Corvette ZR1 of any interest to metals fanatics? Because of the wide array of metals which are used to make this high-performance sports car so incredibly lightweight. Light weight is necessary when you intend for your car to hit more than 200 mph. First the basics: Based on the original ZR-1 (note the hyphen, which is now missing), the car is very simple in appearance ” but the car is clearly built to fit its $100,000 asking price. The supercharged V-8 engine is capable of 620 horsepower, and will make its mark as the most powerful Chevrolet in existence. According to the New York Times, the front fenders, front splitter, lower rocker moldings, roof panel, roof bow, and the hood were constructed with carbon fiber, while the chassis’ frame rails are hydroformed aluminum.  Magnesium is used to make the fixed-roof frame and steering column bracket. The Times also notes that the monstrous brakes are created with carbon-ceramic rotors, which saves 11 pounds per corner over iron rotors.

Although the environmentalists couldn’t be too fond of the cattle drive Chrysler let loose on Detroit ” after all, cows supposedly emit more air polluting gases than even cars  ” the green theme of the show inspired those looking out for nature, and shamed some of the more ecologically reckless. While muscle cars and big trucks aren’t disappearing anytime soon (and I’ll admit that I’m an avid environmentalist who secretly adores old muscle cars), the future looks green for many consumers. Although the Corvette ZR1 boasts a powerful V-8 engine, it has  been reported that interest in the V-8 engine is sputtering.  Instead, it seems that smaller engines and alternative-fuel vehicles have been promoted at the show. Hybrid cars have been growing in popularity for quite a while. But despite the interest, writer Jerry Garret asks, Where is that next generation of vehicles capable of meeting those federal mandates, lowering greenhouse gas emissions and pioneering uses of alternative forms of propulsion? They seem to exist, for the most part, still somewhere over the rainbow and in television commercials. The green-themed Detroit auto show, however, is a clear move to help people who ”  to quote Garrison Keeler  ” hate something, change something, and make it better.  Metals can play a clear role in this search for the perfect environmentally-friendly vehicle, as this blog explains. Lighter metals lead to lighter cars, which can lead to less fuel consumption. Various cars may have the limelight this month at the show, and the cattle may keep downtown Detroit busy, but lightweight metals are playing their own starring role at the North American International Auto Show.

— Amy Edwards

Part Two: How Green is My Supply Chain?

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In part one of this two-part series, I discussed the growing importance of the carbon footprint. Some important questions might remain. How do I measure the carbon footprint of my products, and why should I? There are three reasons:

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Part One: How Green Is My Supply Chain?

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The concept of climate change and the need to reduce carbon emissions is far from widely accepted in the U.S., but viewpoints are beginning to change, largely due to customer demand. Japan and the European Union were early converts to the argument that we are changing our planet’s weather patterns, and much of the current legislation is appearing in these countries. Given the trend, though, the U.S. will not be far behind.

We have all heard a great deal about carbon emissions and the ways both individuals and companies can reduce electricity usage and save on transportation. That’s the easy part. The expenditure is simple to quantify, and the carbon emissions are easy to measure. The much larger challenge for companies is measuring the carbon footprint of a product, defined here as the total set of greenhouse gas emissions caused by the production of one unit of a product. This implies knowledge of the carbon emissions released at each stage of the supply chain and production as well as the transportation of all the raw materials and components. To offer an example, the Carbon Trust, an independent company funded by the UK government, recently illustrated the components that create the carbon footprint of a can of cola.

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