Process Metallurgy in Circular Economy System Design: Challenges & Solutions

Additonal authors: Reuter, M. A.. Book title: Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019. Chapter: . Chapter title:

Proceedings, Vol. Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019, 2019

Bartie, N.

Realising the circular economy (CE) is faced with some significant challenges. Process metallurgy and its infrastructure play key roles at the heart of making the CE work. Therefore, the enabling role of process metallurgy within the CE will be central to the discussion in this paper, touching among others on product and system design as well as the key metallurgical and other process fundamentals that need to be investigated and understood to make the CE a reality. The central role of materials and its processing will be discussed in an integrated circular cities perspective. A key focus will be a discussion on designing a resilient “Smart Materials Grid” using and innovating metallurgical process engineering tools, which will manage the flows through Sustainable Circular Cities. The discussion will be using copper as leitmotiv of the discussion i.e. from copper ore, to metal, to complex products, recycling, product design and simulation and its impact. INTRODUCTION The transformation of our economies from linear to circular models in which waste materials become resources is the focus of the Circular Economy (CE) paradigm. Its important intentions: to take control of the damage we have been doing to the planet to ensure its livability and the welfare of future generations. This can only be achieved through careful utilisation of human, natural and economic resources. The concept is derived from several others (Beaulieu et al., 2015), of which Cradle-to-Cradle, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), Industrial Ecology, and Life Cycle Thinking are just a few. Other relevant concepts include resource efficiency (RE), design-for-recycling (DfR), and various others discussed by Blomsma and Brennan (2017) and Homrich et al. (2018), as well as various R-hierarchies e.g. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (3R). However, does society comprehend these concepts, the actors and actions that influence them and how they interact? Do we know the limits of CE? Does society understand the key role of Copper and other metals to rendering the CE operable? True life cycle and systems thinking, focussed on simulation-based, process and metallurgical design are required to answer these questions. Lieder and Rashid (2016) identify nine widely-varying fields that study the concept ranging from sustainability sciences and engineering to economics, business, law, and social sciences. Overlap between questions addressed highlights the need for interdisciplinary collaboration (Nanz et al., 2017) in the assessment of the current status, and further steps needed to transform to CE. This doesn’t apply just in academia, but also in industry where concrete implementation of CE needs to occur at multiple levels, thus necessitating cooperation between government, civil society and other stakeholders (Beaulieu et al., 2015).
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019