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An Assessment of the Environmental Sustainability and Circularity of Future Scenarios of the Copper Life Cycle in the U.S.

Civil and Environmental Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, 119 Porter Hall, 5000 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA
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Sustainability 2019, 11(20), 5624; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11205624
Received: 13 September 2019 / Revised: 30 September 2019 / Accepted: 8 October 2019 / Published: 12 October 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Life Cycle Assessment, a Tool for Sustainability and Circular Economy)
Assessments of availability and sustainability of metals necessary for economic development into the future are important for planning by producers, consumers, and governments. This work assessed the U.S. copper life cycle and examined six future scenarios by which to assess the circular economy and sustainability of copper to 2030. Regression analysis methodology was used to identify relationships among seven drivers and eight materials flows. These relationships were used to develop six forecasts of future scenarios for U.S. production, consumption, old scrap collection, new scrap recovery, landfilling, and scrap exports of copper. Flow forecasts were used to quantify circularity and environmental footprint metrics to assess sustainability. Results of the scenario analyses provide insights into the types of behaviors and trends that could be incentivized to allow for increased circularity of copper. One such finding was that slow population growth and high urbanization resulted in the most circular scenario. Major limitations to circularity are import reliance and scrap exports. Analysis of the scenarios leads to the conclusions that population dynamics are critical to the circularity of copper, as well as that both environmental footprint metrics and circularity indicators must be considered when assessing environmental sustainability. View Full-Text
Keywords: circular economy; environmental sustainability; copper; non-fuel minerals; circularity; forecasting circular economy; environmental sustainability; copper; non-fuel minerals; circularity; forecasting
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Gorman, M.R.; Dzombak, D.A. An Assessment of the Environmental Sustainability and Circularity of Future Scenarios of the Copper Life Cycle in the U.S.. Sustainability 2019, 11, 5624.

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