A step closer to the European Expert Network on critical raw materials

On 30-31 January 2018, a SCRREEN Expert Group (EG) meeting took place in Thon Hotel Brussels City Centre. Day one was dedicated to the production of critical raw materials, and day two zoomed in on the critical raw materials (CRM) market. The ‘Production’ Expert Group addressed the role of circular economy, environmental performance and innovation in the CRM value chain. The ‘Market’ Expert group discussed substitution of critical raw materials and future demand increase for CRM.

The ‘Production’ Expert Group was chaired by Teodora Retegan (Chalmers University) and the ‘Market’ EG was chaired by Stéphane Bourg (CEA). The Expert Group meetings were attended by a total of 77 experts.

CRM production

The focus of the first day laid on the production of critical raw materials. From the group discussions with 33 participants on the materials that were considered in the case studies carried out in SCRREEN, it became clear that for a limited number of applications and CRMs, the circular economy is already in place – or the potential exists.  For most, however, there are still some barriers to closing the loop in these value chains.

Solutions for the issues discussed are to be found in every phase of the value chain, from CRM mining, production, collection to recycling. However, some of these solutions incur a trade-off between material and energy efficiency or environmental and economic efficiency.

SCRREEN project partners engaging during Expert Group (EG) meeting 2018

SCRREEN project partners engaging during Expert Group (EG) meeting 2018

CRM market

Day two of the workshop was devoted to the market of critical raw materials. The 41 participants discussed the substitution of critical raw materials, future demand increase for CRMs, relevant business issues pertinent for CRMs in Europe, and exchanged on a case study that focused on rubber, the only biotic element in the new CRM list. The outcomes of this session aim to support the SCRREEN project in mapping the current and future demand of CRMs.

Further discussions highlighted the fact that mapping CRM demand is complicated due to issues concerning terminology, differences in categorisation of CRM applications, limited information and confidentiality. Clear communication, standardisation and transparency are needed to facilitate research and recommendations on this topic. The SCRREEN project will facilitate this by building a long-lasting European Expert Network on CRMs.

The most valuable takeaways from day two were discussions on (1) exemplary companies where CRMs are taken into account in strategic decisions regarding material composition (e.g. avoidance of materials such as REE in design) and (2) financial incentives and regulatory frameworks needed to further encourage the closing of the CRM loop (and disincentives/regulatory barriers removed).

All the participants of the Expert Group meetings will receive an invitation from the SCRREEN consortium to get access to the EG materials via the SCRREEN online platform.

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