Discrete-Point Analysis of the Energy Demand of Primary versus Secondary Metal Production

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


The metal industry consumes large amounts of energy and contributes significantly, up to 10%, to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Recycling is commonly included among the most viable options for mitigating the climate forcing of metal production by replacing primary production. However, the recycling rates of metals are still incomplete and, in particular, do not exist for most specialty metals. Our empirical analysis of 48 metals shows that their recycling is mainly impeded by their low concentrations. In many cases, the metal concentration in end-of-life products is lower than that in natural ores. This phenomenon inevitably raises the question of the extent to which recycling can be conducted without losing its mitigating effects on climate change. We answer this question for two example metals, tantalum and copper, within the scope of Germany, a leader in recycling. For tantalum, the results show that a further increase in the end-of-life recycling rate (EOL-RR) could contribute to minimizing the overall energy consumption and GHG emissions, despite its low concentrations in end-of-life products. The energy requirements for recycling copper from end-of-life products already reach the magnitude of those for primary production. A further increase in EOL-RR must be examined in detail to ensure mitigating effects on climate change.

ZeitschriftEnvironmental Science and Technology
Seiten (von - bis)507-516
Anzahl der Seiten10
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 07.01.2020