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Losses and lifetimes of metals in the economy

Abstract : The consumption of most metals continues to rise following ever-increasing population growth, affluence and technological development. Sustainability considerations urge greater resource efficiency and retention of metals in the economy. We model the fate of a yearly cohort of 61 extracted metals over time and identify where losses are expected to occur through a life-cycle lens. We find that ferrous metals have the longest lifetimes, with 150 years on average, followed by precious, non-ferrous and specialty metals with 61, 50 and 12 years on average, respectively. Production losses are the largest for 15 of the studied metals whereas use losses are the largest for barium, mercury and strontium. Losses to waste management and recycling are the largest for 43 metals, suggesting the need to improve design for better sorting and recycling and to ensure longer-lasting products, in combination with improving waste-management practices. Compared with the United Nations Environmental Programme’s recycling statistics, our results show the importance of taking a life-cycle perspective to estimate losses of metals to develop effective circular economy strategies. We provide the dataset and model used in a machine-readable format to allow further research on metal cycles.
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Submitted on : Friday, July 15, 2022 - 3:45:49 PM
Last modification on : Monday, September 5, 2022 - 8:18:53 AM


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Alexandre Charpentier Poncelet, Christoph Helbig, Philippe Loubet, Antoine Beylot, Stéphanie Muller, et al.. Losses and lifetimes of metals in the economy. Nature Sustainability, Springer Nature, 2022, pp.717-726. ⟨10.1038/s41893-022-00895-8⟩. ⟨hal-03702553⟩



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