All about life cycle

Clare Richardson - March 20, 2014


The phrase “life cycle” is in danger of joining “sustainability” as exhausted of meaning because of overuse. Yet as this issue of Nickel will show, “life cycle” and “sustainability” are still powerful concepts in society, economics and commerce.

With full life cycle thinking we can show the real environmental and economic performance of nickel and nickel-containing products as it allows us to balance the impacts from production against the benefits of use (and recycling).

Turn to page 5 for a special feature devoted to exploring the life cycle of nickel. We start with an introduction to the newly completed Life Cycle Inventory of metallic nickel and ferronickel, both key ingredients for many grades of stainless steels and nickel alloys. This inventory provides current, representative and peer-reviewed quantification of all the material and environmental resources that go into making a unit of nickel.

With this baseline information it is possible to draw up a balance sheet showing the net benefits the use of nickel brings to society and the environment. And it provides information to help political, regulatory and industrial stakeholders within the nickel value chain take the best – sustainable – decisions.

We go on to examine the question of net benefits – the degree to which the service provided by a material outweighs the physical and environmental resources required to create it – in a Life Cycle Analysis of the Progreso Pier in the Gulf of Mexico. This simple concrete
pier, built using nickel-containing stainless steel rebar, is still standing, still functioning after more than 70 years in a hostile marine environment.

Next, for over a decade the Yale University Centre for Industrial Ecology has been examining the flows and stockbuilding of metals from “cradle to grave”. What this independent research, supported by Nickel Institute, has shown and measured with a precision not previously attempted, is that the journey is a long one and that enormous resources for future generations are accumulating “in use” in society.

And to come full circle, on page 11, read how nickel-containing stainless steels are collected and recycled – a very practical demonstration of what the Yale University research shows: the qualities of nickel are such that society values and works hard to hold on to nickel-containing materials for the good of today and tomorrow.

There is more, as always, and for a combination of beauty and utility, see what nickel is doing for Stonecutters Bridge in Hong Kong and how scrap stainless steel becomes public art in the hands of sculptor Bruce Taylor. Both practical examples of what nickel brings to
society and sustainability.

Current Issue

Nickel and sustainability

Towards a circular economy

August 30, 2018


Feature Story:
A catalyst for sustainable operations
Nickel-containing catalysts are widely used in the refining and petrochemical industries worldwide. At end-of-life, catalysts are either sent to landfill or sent for recycling to recover the valuable metals they contain. Refineries in Kuwait are changing the way they handle spent catalysts.

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