Going Circular with Critical Raw Materials

Lake Como School of Advanced Studies, September 6-10 2021, online

The concept of material criticality has arisen from the concern that some materials (in particular, metals and minerals) may become supply unstable, highly price volatile or in other ways uncertain in their availability for technology deployment and manufacturing. These constraints may undermine industrial competitiveness and deployment of strategic technologies for sustainable development, such as electric mobility or renewable energy. The transition to a circular economy is highlighted as a promising approach for material criticality mitigation. However, closing the loop of critical materials poses many challenges from technological complexity of recycling to financial, organisational and operational constraints.

This course aimed to provide the opportunity to learn how circular economy approaches may assist a sustainable management of raw materials. In particular, the course focused on circular economy approaches from a company and supply chain perspective. The former refers to product design solutions, while the latter addresses approaches for development of closed-loop supply chains. These complex topics were tackled from multiple perspectives: technological, economic, environmental and regulatory.

Participants had the chance to meet prominent scholars in the material criticality and circular economy fields who provided them with an overview of current research and implementation efforts as well as an outlook on future opportunities.