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The role of industrial actors in the circular economy for critical raw materials: a framework with case studies across a range of industries


  • Alexander Cimprich

    (University of Waterloo)

  • Steven B. Young

    (University of Waterloo)

  • Dieuwertje Schrijvers


  • Anthony Y. Ku

    (NICE America Research
    National Institute of Clean-and-Low-Carbon Energy)

  • Christian Hagelüken

    (Umicore AG & Co. KG)

  • Patrice Christmann


  • Roderick Eggert

    (Colorado School of Mines)

  • Komal Habib

    (University of Waterloo)

  • Atsufumi Hirohata

    (University of York)

  • Alan J. Hurd

    (Los Alamos National Laboratory)

  • Min-Ha Lee

    (KITECH North America)

  • David Peck

    (Delft University of TechnologyArchitectural Engineering and TechnologyDelft University of Technology (TU Delft))

  • Evi Petavratzi

    (British Geological Survey)

  • Luis A. Tercero Espinoza

    (Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI
    ESM Foundation)

  • Patrick Wäger

    (ESM Foundation
    Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, Technology & Society Laboratory)

  • Alessandra Hool

    (ESM Foundation)


In this article, we explore concrete examples of circularity strategies for critical raw materials (CRMs) in commercial settings. We propose a company-level framework for systematically evaluating circularity strategies (e.g., material recycling, product reuse, and product or component lifetime extension) in specific applications of CRMs from the perspectives of specific industrial actors. This framework is applied in qualitative analyses—informed by relevant literature and expert consultation—of five case studies across a range of industries: (1) rhenium in high-pressure turbine components, (2) platinum group metals in industrial catalysts for chemical processing and oil refining, (3) rare earth permanent magnets in computer hard disk drives, (4) various CRMs in consumer electronics, and (5) helium in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines. Drawing from these case studies, three broader observations can be made about company circularity strategies for CRMs. Firstly, there are multiple, partly competing motivations that influence the adoption of circularity strategies, including cost savings, supply security, and external stakeholder pressure. Secondly, business models and value-chain structure play a major role in the implementation of circularity strategies; business-to-business models appear to be more conducive to circularity than business-to-consumer models. Finally, it is important to distinguish between closed-loop circularity, in which material flows are contained within the “focal” actor’s system boundary, and open-loop circularity, in which material flows cross the system boundary, as the latter has limited potential for mitigating material criticality from the perspective of the focal actor.

Suggested Citation

  • Alexander Cimprich & Steven B. Young & Dieuwertje Schrijvers & Anthony Y. Ku & Christian Hagelüken & Patrice Christmann & Roderick Eggert & Komal Habib & Atsufumi Hirohata & Alan J. Hurd & Min-Ha Lee , 2023. "The role of industrial actors in the circular economy for critical raw materials: a framework with case studies across a range of industries," Mineral Economics, Springer;Raw Materials Group (RMG);Luleå University of Technology, vol. 36(2), pages 301-319, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:minecn:v:36:y:2023:i:2:d:10.1007_s13563-022-00304-8
    DOI: 10.1007/s13563-022-00304-8

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    References listed on IDEAS

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