Because nickel-containing materials such as stainless steel are exceptionally resilient, nickel may remain in use for decades and create materials stocks. The lifetime varies between a few years in consumer applications to more than 100 years in buildings. These material stocks are already an important source of secondary raw materials and their importance will continue to increase in the future.
Society has used nickel for more than 150 years - it is found in a wide range of end-use applications
These material stocks are already an important source of secondary raw materials and their importance will continue to increase in the future
It is important to model current and historic flows of nickel as well as the stock that is growing. This allows a better understanding of how nickel flows through the economic value chains and enters use; where stock exists; the amount of nickel bound in society and when materials will become available for future recycling.
Since 2000, the Yale University Stocks and Flows (STAF) Project has been tackling this issue for a wide range of industrial alloying metals and other technologically significant materials. The Nickel Institute began its association with the STAF project in 2002 and since then has been updating the nickel stocks and flows models on a regular basis. Results have been published in various peer-review publications.
A recent Sankey diagram of the flows of nickel from mining through production, manufacturing, first and end use is shown below. It also comprises the flows of nickel containing scrap entering stainless steel production (2020 data)