The United Nations 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) adopted at the UN World Summit 2015 addresses 17 global societal challenges with concrete actions. In 2016, the European Commission adopted an orientation package on the EU implementation of the SDGs, through its communication ‘Next steps for sustainable European future’ encompassing the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.

Raw Materials for Sustainable Development: Opportunities and Challenges

Raw materials are critically important for society in general, and for the transition to a green economy in particular. They are key for achieving the goals set out in COP21 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, for implementing the European 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and for the European Resource Efficiency Initiative. Metals, minerals and raw materials and their sustainable supply and consumption are important in the move towards a circular economy.

From a raw materials value chain perspective, three objectives are key in the circular economy: bringing materials into the loop in a sustainable way, keeping materials in the loop for a long as possible, and minimizing waste at all stages. The aim is to design smarter solutions for the sustainable extraction, processing and use/repairing/recycling of raw materials from both primary and secondary sources. Furthermore, we must ensure that used materials and products find their way into new product lifecycles in an energetically and economically meaningful way.

Public awareness of the benefits of closing material loops must be raised amongst students (especially young people), industry and society. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are key enablers of moving towards a circular economy if they take ownership for both the sustainable sourcing and the design of products for the circular economy.