Environmental Comparisons Stainless Steel Vs. Polymer Concrete
Of late, people are considering more and more their personal impact upon the environment with the products that they consume. For some this is simply a matter of how they dispose of waste (e.g. recycling more than ever), and for others it is about the products they consume at all, for example the choice of not drinking through a straw or getting their coffee in a single use coffee cup.
While mindsets are changing with highly consumable items, with less consumable items we are more of a “throw-away” society than ever. with such things as appliances, that once upon a time got fixed, now get binned. That’s how you sell more toasters!
This is certainly one thing we can all remedy to reduce our personal impact on the environment – repair not refuse. Of course, this requires buying something that can, in the first place, be repaired… ah, they don’t make them like they used to!
The other thing we can all be doing is considering what impact the processing or manufacture of a product has had on the environment, long before it has made its way into our possession. What process, what chemical, what resources have been used for a product to come into being? And, who’s economy are we really supporting (link to chinese v australia references)?
In this article we examine two popular materials for drainage products, polymer concrete and stainless steel, drawing the conclusion that stainless steel is the greener option by composition, processing and material longevity.
Polymer concrete is made up of polymer, concrete, and some gluing agent and resins, there’s some mixing agent that binds the product together. Additionally, it’s set, requiring heat. Polymer concrete moulds run through enormous gas ovens to set the material. So, the environment suffers somewhat in the manufacturer of polymer concrete, concrete and so on.
Part of the reason that stainless steel is a greener option is because once the constituents are mined, its fixed, that is the end of the matter. Once smelted, it is a set product and has no more augmentation to it, you don’t have to keep processing it.
Stainless steel’s ingredients come out of the ground, not a lab. It is a naturally formed material. Stainless steel is predominantly made up of iron, 304 stainless (the most commonly used grade of stainless steel) also consists of chromium, nickel, manganese, nitrogen, carbon, silicon, phosphorous and sulphur, many of these mined here in Australia. Admittedly, some of these elements are dangerous, but they are nonetheless natural ingredients, used in very small percentages.
On one final note comparing these two medium, stainless steel will last almost forever, whereas polymer concrete (as well as other composite materials such as concrete and FRP) will wear down and erode, it may take 20 years of drainage, but it will happen, resulting in a need for replacement.
So, if we may be so bold as to say, not only is stainless steel’s composition is greener, it’s the manufacturing of it is greener as well.