Global population growth, increased consumption and requirement for future technologies, e.g. for the Energy Transition, are among the factors driving primary raw material demand. In consequence, the application of secondary raw materials represents a key instrument for resource conservation. Careful design of framework conditions could create a range of benefits including reductions in primary raw material consumption, reduced environmental impacts, and less dependency on primary raw material imports.
Increased recycling rates are dependent on material flow expertise. Recycling rates are often limited due to export of refined raw materials in product form, e.g. steel, aluminium in vehicles, or precious and semi-precious metals in IT products. Moreover, raw materials are frequently bound in products, buildings or infrastructure for long periods of time, effectively deposited as so-called anthropogenic stock (secondary material deposits in complex interaction with the environment).
Novel recycling strategies and technology progress enable better use of these secondary stocks. For instance, old landfills are nowadays interpreted as valuable deposits and assessed for their value and profitability (so-called landfill mining).
ifeu carries out research in a number of projects on material flows, mapping of anthropogenic deposits and landfill mining.
Please see topics "Disposal” and “Recovery and recycling”.