SCOTLAND’S top experts on the circular economy have said rekindling the embers of our once-proud steel industry is vital to ending the climate crisis.

And Zero Waste Scotland said using electric arc furnace (EAF) technology, powered by our low-carbon electricity grid, could see the country produce some of the “greenest” steel in the world, remanufacturing it from scrap.

In a new paper, How Should Scotland Manage its Scrap Steel?, it said there were “clear and obvious” environmental benefits of using EAF technology. The group’s analysts said these included savings of 60% in carbon emissions; creating highly skilled green jobs; and embedding resilience in meeting our steel needs by reducing reliance on imports.

Dr Charlotte Stamper, partner for energy infrastructure at Zero Waste Scotland and co-author of the report, said: “Our findings show that Scotland exports almost 820,000 tonnes of scrap steel per year for remelting in other countries.

“In many of those places, they still use methods which require large amounts of coal and the addition of virgin iron ore to operate – and this carries a high carbon cost.

“If Scotland were to instead invest in modern EAF technology, we could operate these using 100% scrap and power them using Scotland’s low carbon electricity rather than coal.

“We would also no longer export valuable materials, strengthening Scotland’s resilience by securing domestic steel supply chains are in place to keep Scotland’s economy running in times of global material shortages.”

She added: “This move makes sense as part of the underpinning of Scotland’s transition towards a circular economy ... Simply put, the opportunity is there for the taking.”

The report came as researchers from WMG, the University of Warwick, said that with demand for steel increasing, there were opportunities for the sector in Scotland.

They said it currently employs just under a third of the Scottish working population, and accounts for 31.2% of the country’s turnover.

However, if there was investment in the sector, this could result in the manufacturing of new types of steel such as crude, which is the most in demand but the least manufactured here.

Dr Russell Hall, from WMG, said: “The world’s population is set to increase from 7.7 billion people in 2020 to 9.7 billion in 2050, therefore the demand for steel will continue to increase. This provides an opportunity for Scotland to revive their steel industry and boost their income, however this will require coordinated government intervention and leadership into steel making capability … in the form of direct investment, indirect support such as the reduction of energy costs or increase in skills provision for steelmaking.”