Critical Materials and Resource Efficiency Group (CARE)

The Critical Materials and Resource Efficiency (CARE) group contributes to the transition towards sustainable material cycles by addressing relevant challenges on a system-, product- and technology level. We develop methodological frameworks, methods and indicators for the assessment of "circularity", expand the existing database by generating primary data, and provide guidance to support the implementation of sociotechnical systems promoting sustainable material cycles, with a particular focus on secondary metals and plastics.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) established by the United Nations within the agenda 2030 address the need for inclusive and sustainable economic growth (SDG 8), and sustainable consumption and production patterns (SDG 12). Linked to these goals is the need for systemic view on the situation in developing countries and the search for appropriate solutions, which also integrate the needs of the most vulnerable parts of the society. A special focus of our research is therefore addressing the particular situation in developing countries, where sustainable material cycles are endangered by losses of valuable materials, cross-contamination, missing expertise and the absence of suitable technologies.

Our research focuses on the following:

  • Product design for increased material circularity: The design of products predominantly determines the potential reuse of components and the recycling of materials and their reintegration into new material cycles. We investigate how new products should be designed by modelling and simulating the implications of product design on increased material circularity and by developing suitable assessment methodologies for material circularity.
  • Recycling and recovery technologies to foster sustainable material cycles: Yesterday's and today's products are future material resources. Their reintegration depends on the application of suitable technologies which assure a separation and elimination of contaminants and a separation and concentration of valuables. We analyze and assess recycling and recovery technologies from a material perspective by developing assessment schemes and indicator systems, including considerations on raw materials criticality and reverse supply chain resilience.
  • System design to enhance sustainable product cycles: The design and governance of material and product flows in a national economy or along a reverse supply chain affects material circularity. We assess and evaluate existing and future systems through modelling and simulation of the implications of system design on material and product circularity.



Heinz W. Böni

Technology & Society Laboratory
Lerchenfeldstrasse 5
CH-9014 St. Gallen
Tel.: +41 58 765 78 58

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