More than recycling – The potential of the circular economy shown by a case study of the metal working industry

Hagedorn, W. and Jäger, S. and Wieczorek, L. and Kronenberg, P. and Greiff, K. and Weber, S. and Roettger, A.

Volume: 377 Pages:
DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2022.134439
Published: 2022

The steel industry is responsible for a quarter of all industrial greenhouse gas emissions. So far, the environmental savings are mainly due to steel recycling. Besides recycling, the circular economy offers strategies to increase material efficiency and thus decrease the primary raw material demand. However, the potentials remain unexploited because circular economy concepts with a higher degree of circularity are not considered. The presented case study of an industrial machining knife illustrates how the production process can be improved by implementing various circular strategies. The environmental performance is analyzed by calculating and comparing the carbon footprint, the cumulative energy demand and the material footprint, and the material efficiency indicator. The results show that the implementation of the three overarching strategies of the circular economy - narrowing, closing, and slowing – contributes to a significant increase in material efficiency. The implementation also has a positive effect on the overall environmental performance. The circular production processes require less energy and resources and cause fewer emissions. Auxiliary processes such as additional transport routes are relevant, as they can reduce or even overcompensate for savings. These processes must be adequately considered and designed. © 2022 Elsevier Ltd

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