S Yorks firm was recycling pioneer

A steamroller at work on Aizlewood Road in Sheffield in 1950
A steamroller at work on Aizlewood Road in Sheffield in 1950
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It started with a torn boot… and it led to one of South’s Yorkshire’s most enduring and successful industrial stories.

The year was 1890 and consulting engineer Stanley Faber Prest was visiting the famous Cammel Laird steelworks in Penistone when he decided to take a short cut across the company’s slag tip – and cut his new boot on a piece of steel protruding from the slag.

Noticing there was the more metal in the slag, he realised here must be a way to recover this valuable resource but it was only a while later, during a visit to the World’s Fair in New York, that he met celebrated inventor Thomas Edison, who just happened to be exhibiting a magnetic separator which could do exactly the job Faber Prest had been thinking of.

Returning to England, he quickly acquired the UK patent on the machine and in 1892 established The Slag Reduction Company on a site at Millmoor in Rotherham.

In an area dominated by the steel industry, The Slag Reduction Company could possibly claim to be the first recycling company in the UK.

Over the coming decades it worked with some of the industry’s biggest names, including Steel, Peach and Tozer, Dowlais Iron Company, Charles Cammell & Company and Samuel Fox.

But while significant amounts of steel were being recycled back into industry, there was still question of what to do with the remaining slag to be addressed.

The first record of slag being used as a pioneering roadstone coating came in 1934 – and whole new industry was born, leading in 1964 to the foundation of the company that was known then and is still known today as SteelPhalt, based at the Ickles in Rotherham, right at the heart of the steel industry.

Today SteelPhalt is entering its 51st year as part of the Harsco group of companies and is internationally recognised as a leader in its field, providing a major recycling resource and also making safer roads.

It specialises in the conversion of steel slag into a surface course for road making, the exceptional strength and durability of steel slag extending the life of the road and lengthening road maintenance intervals for resurfacing.

It achieves high skid resistance – enhancing road safety for both drivers and pedestrians – and maintains it throughout the whole life of the road, also avoiding the use of quarried materials and the landfill of residual slag product.

The company’s products include SteelStop, SteelSurf, SteelPave and SteelFlow.

In the last 50 years, SteelPhalt has sold more than 18 million tonnes of asphalt and is well known as one of the UK’s top 10 producers.

In 2013 alone, its computer-controlled plant dispatched around 300,000 tons of material, mainly to customers within a 70-mile radius of the site.

And always at the forefront of green thinking, the company went into 2015 with a £500,000 investment in a fleet of new lorries, featuring the latest fuel-efficient technology, improving transport costs and producing lower emissions, making the vehicles more environment friendly.

“The concept for SteelPhalt was to establish steel slag as a recognised quality aggregate for asphalt and to provide a viable use for the steel slag produced by the steelworks within the South Yorkshire area – and on both counts SteelPhalt has been successful,” says SteelPhalt commercial manager Dean Raynor.

“By understanding and harnessing the unique properties exhibited by steel slag, developing market-leading products and ultimately utilising all the steel slag generated in the South Yorkshire area, StelPhalt is now recognised as a pioneer and leader in steel slag asphalt products.”