Industrial Ecology. Raw material use efficiency

Critical materials are required for humanity. Renewables, mobility, new technologies based on electronics, robotics, health, and food depend on them. Moreover, we need to face future problems related to geological scarcity, supply risks, rising prices, social and geopolitical tensions,  ecosystem destruction, and environmental pollution. Humanity cannot depend on mining alone because the demand grows exponentially. Use and disposal is not the solution, because the problems associated with heavy metal contamination and the high recycling costs are added to the above problems due to a huge increase in the entropy of the waste generated.

It becomes urgent to make a global accounting of the loss of the natural capital of these critical materials. It is necessary to analyze the recyclability of the different products on the market and propose ecodesign solutions based on their disassembly, collection and evaluation of the energy and environmental impacts of the recovery of materials in products.

Unfortunately, more research is focused on the production of new materials with fascinating properties than to analyze how to dismantle, de-mix, decontaminate or recover the basic elements that constitute such materiasl or products to return them into the production chain.

Our working team began working on these topics in 1998. Ten doctoral theses on these topics have been directed or are in the process of being completed. Six international books have been produced, and more than fifty publications in high impact international journals have been written. The research has been financed with contracts with industry and with European and national R+D projects. We have achieved several Awards in the form of Best Papers at international conferences, as well as invited conferences in different countries. Several from our members form part or serve as advisors in international committees such as the Club of Rome, EIP on Raw Materials from the European Commission, UNEP-SETAC, etc.

We are proud to say that our mixed research team Instituto-Fundación CIRCE is one of the most relevant in the world in this area, at the same level as universities such as Yale, MIT, Cambridge, Leiden, Freiberg, Berlin, ETH Zurich or research centers such as CSIRO (Australia), Fraunhofer, JRC-UE, etc.