MO.2.A || Life Cycle Approaches in the Raw Materials Sector II


Circular economy has, in the case of some raw materials, its own drawbacks. The principle states that reuse is basic to reduce primary production, thus in a healthy circular economy me should recycle as much elaborated raw materials as possible (in the case of aluminium i.e. tins, window frames, etc). The new products from this sources will then cost less and it seems as if growth could be unlimited as we will recycle residues and produce new resources. And the statistcs should then show that thanks to the new supply from recycling we will need less raw materials. But now we are confronted with the facts which were anticipated by the Jevon´s paradox: an improved efficiency will lower the price of the commodity and a result of this instead of a reduction we see a clear increase in the use of the resource. In one of the cases studied in this paper, even although aluminium recycling in Europe has grown from 1962 to 2018 around 2,000 % from 250,000 t to 5.3 Mt and such increase should have produced a direct reduction of the production of primary aluminium (from mining operations and imports), this has not happened. Aluminium mining production has gone from 1,02 Mt to 4.1 Mt, this means a growth of 4,000 %. European aluminium production was 1.49 Mt in 1962 and dropped to 519,000 t in 2018, this meant a reduction to 1/3 of the aluminium production from European sources, which represented 63% in 1962 and dropped to 3% in 2018. A continuous growth in a circular economy framework, has produced an effect contrary to the desired. The increase in aluminium demand produced a growth in the primary bauxite sources production. Since European sources are more expensive, due to the environmental and social restrictions, this limited the competitiveness of European sources forcing them either to foreclosure or to delay the opening of new operations, and at the same time this made imports from outside Europe more competitive.