The steel used to make our drinking water, drinking fuel, our electric power, our clothes, our furniture, our carpets, our walls and even our toilets is all stainless.
But despite the obvious benefits, the waste comes from all over the world, and in Australia the waste is largely being sent overseas, with the majority of the waste going to Asia.
In fact, the most common type of stainless steel used in Australia is used for kitchen cabinets.
In 2015, Australian manufacturers exported around 70 million tonnes of stainless.
In China, where the value of the domestic market is the highest, manufacturers exported more than 60 million tonnes, and Australia exported less than 10 million tonnes.
And despite the fact that stainless is used in more than 90 per cent of our homes, our homes are more than just the stuff of our walls, furniture, and even the taps.
The stainless steel we use is being exported to the rest of the world to make other products.
We don’t know how much we are exporting, but we know that most of it ends up in other countries, like China.
And the rest, of course, ends up here in Australia.
“When we’re exporting stainless steel overseas we’re also exporting to other countries,” Professor Stephen Bowerman from the University of Technology, Sydney, told the ABC.
As a result, when it comes to our water supply, Australia is one of the worst offenders.
According to the Australian Institute of Water and Wastewater Research (AIFWPR), about 70 per cent to 80 per cent in our drinking and wastewater system is produced from imported stainless steel.
The AIFW PRR said that in 2015, imported stainless was used in 41 per cent, and domestic stainless steel was used to manufacture up to 15 per cent.
The stainless steel is also being exported from the US, to the UK, and to Germany.
It’s used to form the bulk of the piping for Australian electricity generation, for the manufacture of household and commercial goods, and for the construction of the nation’s infrastructure.
Australia also exports a significant amount of water to other Asian countries, including Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
According the AIFSPR, between 2015 and 2020, the US imported more than $2 billion worth of stainless from Australia, mostly to make water pipes, as well as to supply the supply for the Australian Olympic Park in Sydney.
While many countries are looking to reduce their reliance on imported stainless, the AUS still exports almost 30 per cent more of its stainless steel than we do, according to the AFI.
In a recent study by the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEFE), which looks at the environmental and social costs of importing foreign stainless steel, researchers found that while we could cut our carbon footprint by 50 per cent by sourcing less than 5 per cent from imported products, it would mean that importing a further 50 per to 60 per cent would be a waste.
Instead, the study suggested that we should consider imports from countries like China and India.
China, which accounts for 40 per cent and 31 per cent respectively of the global supply, is the largest importer of stainless, with exports of around $10 billion in 2016.
India, which is the second largest importers, is also a key market for our products.
It has an annual market value of $2.2 trillion.
And while we can import less than 4 per cent per year from China, India imports more than 20 per cent on a yearly basis.
And we can do even better.
Researchers from the AIEF’s Institute of Environmental Economics and Policy have recommended that countries such as the US and China should consider importing up to 25 per cent domestically sourced stainless steel from Australia.
This would cut our emissions by 15 per to 25 million tonnes annually.
If we could get the same amount of imported stainless into Australia, the impact of the imports on our environment would be significant.
That’s why we have a major push to improve the efficiency of our manufacturing process.
As a result of our focus on quality and environmental sustainability, we have produced a range of products that are made using stainless steel in all of our products, from our kitchen cabinets to our washing machines.
We also have a focus on recycling the steel, to reduce our carbon footprints, and we have recently started to introduce new stainless steel recycling plants in our supply chain.
So while Australia is not a perfect example, we do have a very successful example, and I’m proud to be a part of that.
Alfred McLeod is a senior research fellow at the Australian Council for International Policy and the chair of the AWEF’s Stainless Steel Advisory Group.