Promoting Resource Efficiencies of Metals:Mapping,Measurement, and Management

International Cooperation and Exchanges NSFC 2020.01-2024.12


Metals are vital to modern society. The extraction and supply of metals contribute significantly to resource depletion and environmental degradation. Promoting the resources efficiency of metals use is thus important for achieving multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Existing studies on resources efficiency of metals use mostly focus on flows of metal production or consumption. Traditional resources efficiency indicators overlook the role of in-use stocks of metals in providing services and generating human well-being, as well as the impact of global trade. The concept of anthropogenic metal cycles provides a systematic basis for establishing new metrics of resources efficiency incorporating both material flow and in-use stock indicators.Moreover, increasing amounts of international trade link the socioeconomic metabolism of metals in different nations at different life cycle stages, which leads to transboundary spillover effects
of resource efficiency improvement. If developed countries chose to enhance their resources efficiency by increasingly outsourcing pollution-intensive and low value-added stages of metal extraction and fabrication, as well as scrap recycling and disposal, to developing countries, this may cause negative effects to resources efficiency at the global scale. In order to avoid such"leakages” in resources efficiency, cross-national collaborative approaches are needed for managing the anthropogenic metal cycles to achieve common interests of global sustainable

For this project we propose to (1) develop an open-access multi-national long time-series database of anthropogenic metal cycles, which covers major life cycle stages of metal use and incorporating international trade of raw materials (metal ores), primary, semi and final metal products, and recycled scraps; (2) develop a new framework of resources efficiency accounting for metals based on the concept of anthropogenic metals cycle; (3) evaluate the historical changes of resources efficiency of metals by using different measurements and metrics, and reveal the driving forces of changes in resources efficiency at both national and global levels; and (4) identify collaborative pathways of enhancing resources efficiency of metal use, and quantify their contributions to energy conservation, water conservation and CO2 mitigation, so as to promote the achievement of relevant SDGs.

The proposed work represents an important contribution to the methodology and the knowledge base of resources efficiency. The quantitative results can deepen our understanding on the global trends of resources efficiency of metal use and the roles of different country groups in the trade-linked global metal cycles. They form the scientific basis for formulating future policies regarding resource efficiency, resource security, urban mining, as well as waste treatment and circular economy directives. The groups in both China and abroad are among the global leaders in dynamic material cycle and resource efficiency studies. Collaborations among the groups can guarantee successful data collection and quantitative analyses in this project.


Mineral Resources ;Resource Efficiency ;Material Flow Analysis ;Metals;Sustainable Resource Management