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Podcast: Circular Economy & Sustainability in Critical Minerals

The Critical Minerals Association's 1st Breakfast Chat: Sustainability & Circular Economy in Critical Minerals on 11th August brought together great insights from:

  • Andrew Clifton, Global Sustainability Manager @ Rolls Royce

  • Robert Spencer, Head of Sustainable Development @ AECOM UK

  • Robert Pell, Founder @ Minviro

  • Chris O'Brien, Senior Environment Consultant @ SRK Consulting UK

The Critical Minerals Association has put together a podcast of the event's Circular Economy & Sustainability highlights. Tune in to hear how the UK can build a circular economy for critical minerals, address scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions. Learn more about incentives for companies to implement circular economy practices and solutions such as modularised design & legislation changes. Scroll down for speaker bios!

Discussion highlights include:

  • Circular Economy is a concept, a paradigm - the aim is to keep materials in use at a high value for as long as we can

  • 'Waste as material without an identity' - Thomas Rau

  • Criticality of a material depends on the organisational/ country context

  • Based on the context of your organisation - determine what is important/ critical to you and find a way to maintain that value

  • To measure success of a circular economy approach - need good data/ material flow analysis, determine metrics for success, determine what you're trying to do based on your organisation, consider product and component based approaches to circular economy, look at success at an organisational level - basket of leading and lagging indicators

  • There's different thinking for circular economy of critical materials vs industrial materials

  • There are barriers to critical mineral recycling that aren't faced by municipal waste - the amounts of critical materials we're talking about are very small

  • Electronic devices - first challenge is getting the devices to places that can break them down into their component parts

  • We need targets that are more nuanced and technically feasible for recycling

  • How do we as a country make sure that we don't send waste streams with critical minerals overseas

  • Modular design is a natural twin to the circular economy - key takeaway is thinking about the next life of your product as you develop an initial product design

  • Rolls Royce's servitised model keeps materials in use for as long as possible - Andrew Clifton happy to share Rolls Royce's experience of implementing circular economy processes but circular economy processes are context specific

  • One of main motivators for the circular economy approach is to improve sustainability

  • Circular Economy approaches should be developed alongside life cycle assessment to quantify environmental impacts

  • Important to take a holistic systems perspective - what is the problem, what are you trying to achieve, is what you're doing helping with the solution?

  • Life Cycle Assessments are important for understanding the data and where the emissions are - it's never simple where emission responsibility lies

  • Producer responsibility is important for change - the more governments can incentivise companies that use critical minerals to continue their responsibility into the user stage - the more this will incentivise better use of data/ encourage models for circular economy

  • Opportunity for collaboration - need to have a holistic view - has to include whole supply chain not just a part of it

Andrew Clifton, Global Sustainability Manager @ Rolls Royce

Robert Spencer, Head of Sustainable Development @ AECOM UK

Robert Pell, Founder @ Minviro Consultants & Life Cycle Assessments

  • Chair of the Critical Minerals Association's Sustainability & ESG Standards Working Group

Chris O'Brien, Senior Environment Consultant @ SRK Consulting UK

  • Chair of the Critical Minerals Association's Circular Economy Working Group

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