The supply of, the new developments and the business of materials in a sustainable world
Access to raw materials at an affordable cost is essential for economic growth. Rising demands from middle-class consumers and strategic positioning on the world market put increasing pressure on material supply. This opens opportunities for new, renewed and alternative material sources. Technological developments and raw material prices open a window of opportunity for re-establishing mining operations in Europe. Additionally, material stocks in society (in deposits, landfills, stocks and end-of-life products) become economically viable raw material sources. Waste management has shifted to resource management. The sustainable management of materials has become a cornerstone in the transition to a green economy. In this green economy, product longevity and repair become central again and alternative business concepts are explored.
Detailed program Materials
The materials track of the iSUP-2014 conference looked at securing materials supply for Europe, closing material loops and introduction of new business concepts for sustainable materials management. The introduction of clean technologies leads to an increased use of critical materials and increased product complexity. This is not only true for electronics (tablet PCs) and renewable energy technologies (wind mills), but also for low-energy buildings. This presents a challenge both in view of material supply and recycling. (Increased) sustainability can only be realised through a systemic approach, a collaboration across the value chain: between miners and recyclers, product designers and metallurgists,.. There is an increasing need for education: open reports, massive online courses, campaigns, apps and websites were cited as good stimuli.
Innovation in the materials sector will be based on digitalisation: modelling and simulation of processes, automated mining, high tech sorting, all will contribute to increased material supply and higher resource efficiency. But also business approaches need to innovate circular economy is much more than recycling. Companies lease materials or buy back their products, increasing repair can create new jobs in Europe, products can be replaced by services. In general it must be understood that a single company cannot be sustainable in itself, we need collaboration along the value chain.