Circular Economy at the Royal Academy of Engineering

David Fitzsimons joins Raimund Bleischwitz from UCL and Devni Acharya from ARUP to present on the theme of de-materialisation at a symposium at the Royal Academy of Engineering on the circular economy starting on Monday 30 April 2018 in London.


De-materialisation is just one response to the circular economy challenge and, in order to draw attention to the benefits from policies designed to reward longer component and product life, David questions our assumptions about steel: “I point out the loss of critical raw materials when some metal products are melted for recycling, but go on to highlight some non-obvious consequences of using the steel recycling process,” he explains.

Referencing a paper by Julian Allwood and others from the University of Cambridge Department of Engineering, David draws attention to the accumulating tramp compounds such as copper in recycled steel.  Concentrations of more than 0.1 wt % of copper cause surface cracking in rolled steel.  Although it is widely assumed that every tonne of scrap steel sent for recycling saves the mining of approximately 2 tonnes of iron ore and 0.5 tonnes of limestone, the accumulation of tramp elements in scrap steel may lead to a glut of contaminated steels suitable only for low value applications such as rebar - and consequently new steel production will not be replaced by recycled steels sourced from  electric arc furnaces.

“Our conclusion is that product life extension through remanufacturing delivers more than just energy efficiency benefits: it offers modest de-materialisation benefits as well," says David, adding: "...unless the audience and panel succeed in arguing otherwise!”