The Special Importance of Metals in a Circular Economy

When the 17 Sustainable Development Goals[1] were adopted at the UN General Assembly in 2015 they were still formulated as a vision of how to achieve a better world with more prosperity and less resource consumption, we are now entering a time in which parts of this vision are beginning to become law[2]. For example, the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan[3] brings the importance of sustainability and the development of sustainable processes into the focus of European policy. What is sustainable and what is not is to be described, classified,and specifically promoted, e.g. also through the management of financial flows. As important as the emphasis on sustainability and the promotion of appropriate ways to achieve it are, there are certain concerns if what is relatively easily described,legally defined, and then decided upon in the administrations of political institutions and companies in the financial industry is always technically feasible. After all, even a circular economy has scientific and technical limits that have to be accepted in terms of economic efficiency.
However, sustainability must also be considered in the context of structural changes in national economies.Developments in the field of metals[4] show that in the traditional industrial societies in Europe and Japan, structural changes from industrial to service societies have taken place, which have temporarily led very clearly in the global steel and foundry industry to the fact that the per capita consumption of steel and cast products in the period between 1970 and 1995 has no longer increased and in some cases, even the absolute consumption has decreased[5] with a growing world population. Here,then, the dematerialization of global economic growth has already taken place in selected areas. With the industrialization in China, this development has ended,especially at the beginning of this century,and exponential growth with extreme raw material consumption and price increases has taken place again. However, this development will very likely end in the next two decades, namely when the structural change from an industrial to a service society will also take place in China [5].

[4] Deike, R.: Befinden sich die Rohstoffmärkte in einem erneuten Wandel?, ChemieIngenieur Technik 92, Nr.4, S.331-340, 2020.
[5] Deike, R.: What is happening on the commodity markets – and what the future holds?, CASTING PLANT & TECHNOLOGY 3/2021, p.32-43 16.


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