WE.2.C || Benefits of Retaining Materials and Their Quality in a Circular Economy

Navare, Kranti; Vrancken, Karl C.; Van Acker, Karel

The circular economy (CE), as defined by European Commission, is an economy where the value of products, materials and resources is maintained as long as possible. Although maintaining the value of materials has been highlighted, current CE monitoring tools and frameworks have not put sufficient emphasis on assessing material value. Currently, most frameworks evaluate resources use efficiency. Consideration of material value or quality is currently lacking. This aspect is even more crucial for biotic resources. It is harder to preserve the value of these materials. Recycling them to their original value is difficult, and hence they are usually cascaded in the application. Cascading is a principle of optimizing resource utilization through the sequential use of the resource in multiple material applications followed by energy recovery as the final use. A cascading approach involved using the resources for the highest possible material-value applications, increasing each application’s lifetime and minimizing quality degradation with each subsequent application. Identifying the best material use pathway would require an appropriate measurement of material quality and change of material quality in the value chain. Quantifying the degree of cascading is still missing. Statistical entropy analysis (SEA) has been put forward as a methodology to evaluate resource quality in material flows and could be beneficial to assess cascading use of wood. SEA quantifies quality based on the concentration of a resource in a material flow (or a product). However, biotic resources, especially wood, have an inherent structural composition, which influences their quality. In this study, the SEA method was adapted to quantify quality based on structural characteristics. The adapted methodology could be a powerful tool for assessing cascading and fill the gap in CE monitoring