Steel cans – preserving food safely and sustainably

The global population is growing by 1.10 per cent per year, an additional 83 million people annually. The world’s population is projected to increase by slightly more than one billion people over the next 13 years, reaching 8.6 billion in 2030, and to increase further to 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion by 2100 (World Population Prospects the 2017 Revision, United Nations ). The world will need to produce an estimated 60 percent more food by 2050 to ensure global food security, and it must do so while conserving and enhancing the natural resource base (Food and Agriculture Division of the United Nations).

Population growth, coupled with further industrialisation and urbanisation, will result in increased demand for water.

Freshwater withdrawals have tripled over the last 50 years and the demand continues to increase by 64 billion cubic meters a year ( Current needs are also still going unmet.

Steel is needed for growing, storing and delivering our food. It is also needed in water collection, storage, purification and distribution. Steel also provides solutions that help to improve water management and reduce losses. For example, in many cities more than 40% of the total water supply is lost during distribution. Tokyo has adopted corrugated stainless steel pipes for 90% of its extensive network of underground potable water pipes, eliminating leakages and lowering costs. Check out our story 'Tackling water loss in Tokyo' for more information.

Steel’s role in food and water supply

For food

  • Agriculture: farming tools and equipment, silos, equipment to feed and shelter livestock, pipes and irrigation systems, water tanks
  • Distribution: ships and shipping containers, rail, trucks, planes and related infrastructure such as bridges, tunnels, rail track, fueling stations, train stations, ports and airports
  • Preservation and storage: food cans, refrigerators
  • Preparation: appliances such as stoves, ovens and microwaves, and utensils.

For water

  • Collection: pumps, pipes, well-drilling equipment
  • Storage and distribution: pumps, pipes, tanks, buckets
  • Purification and recycling: equipment and tanks for waste water treatment plants and desalination plants.

Steel cans – preserving food safely and sustainably

Almost 200 billion cans of food are produced each year. Compared to other food preservation methods, steel cans save energy because refrigeration and freezing is not needed. They are also tamper-resistant and protect food and drink from moisture, oxygen and light, helping to preserve the nutritional value of their contents without the need for additives.

Steel cans are 100% recyclable; they are the most recycled form of packaging. Thanks to its magnetic properties, steel is easy to extract, and the scrap can be reused by steel companies to offset the consumption of raw materials and energy. A significant proportion of the steel in a can comes from recycled sources.