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Toward Sustainable Material Usage: Evaluating the Importance of Market Motivated Agency in Modeling Material Flows

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Golisano Institute for Sustainability, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York
Materials Science and Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
§ Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Engineering Systems Division, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cite this: Environ. Sci. Technol. 2011, 45, 9, 4110–4117
Publication Date (Web):March 25, 2011
https://doi.org/10.1021/es103508u
Copyright © 2011 American Chemical Society

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    Abstract

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    Increasing recycling will be a key strategy for moving toward sustainable materials usage. There are many barriers to increasing recycling, including quality issues in the scrap stream. Repeated recycling can compound this problem through the accumulation of tramp elements over time. This paper explores the importance of capturing recycler decision-making in accurately modeling accumulation and the value of technologies intended to mitigate it. A method was developed combining dynamic material flow analysis with allocation of those materials into production portfolios using blending models. Using this methodology, three scrap allocation methods were explored in the context of a case study of aluminum use: scrap pooling, pseudoclosed loop, and market-based. Results from this case analysis suggest that market-driven decisions and upgrading technologies can partially mitigate the negative impact of accumulation on scrap utilization, thereby increasing scrap use and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A market-based allocation method for modeling material flows suggests a higher value for upgrading strategies compared to a pseudoclosed loop or pooling allocation method for the scenarios explored.

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    Supplemental A mathematical model details and supplemental B case details. This material is available free of charge via the Internet at http://pubs.acs.org.

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