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Recycling 2019, 4(1), 5; https://doi.org/10.3390/recycling4010005

Environmental Sustainability of Niobium Recycling: The Case of the Automotive Industry

1
School of Engineering Science, Industrial Engineering and Management (IEM), LUT University, P.O. Box 20, FI-53851 Lappeenranta, Finland
2
Higher School of Cyber-Physical Systems and Management, Institute of Computer Science and Technology, Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnical University, St. Petersburg 195251, Russia
3
Faculty of Process and Environmental Engineering, Lodz University of Technology, ul. Wolczanska 213, 90-924 Lodz, Poland
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 6 December 2018 / Revised: 20 December 2018 / Accepted: 8 January 2019 / Published: 10 January 2019
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Abstract

The recycling of scrap is one of the common approaches aiming at reduction of mining-based production of critical metals and mitigation of their supply risk as well as processing-related environmental impact. The number of currently available end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) indicates—significant potential for critical metals recycling, especially niobium (Nb). Therefore, the quantification of environmental impact of niobium recovery starts to be an important issue in assessment of sustainability of large-scale recycling processes. In this paper, we assess energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in individual stages of niobium supply chain in the automotive industry over the period 2010–2050. The different stages including mining, production and recycling are analyzed using dynamic simulation. The results show the majority of the consumed energy (45% of energy demand in niobium supply chain) is used in the primary production stage. This stage also contributes to 72% of total gas emissions of supply chain over the period 2010–2050. Mining of niobium consumes up to 36% of energy and generates ca. 21% of GHG emissions. While, in recycling stage, the secondary production of niobium requires 19% of supply chain energy and generates 7% of gas emissions. The detailed calculations show that recycling of niobium could save around 133–161 m GJ energy between 2010 and 2050. The recycling would also contribute to the reduction of 44–53 mt CO2-eq in the same period. It shows around 18% reduction of annual emissions between 2010 and 2050 thanks to reuse of niobium in secondary production rather than primary production. View Full-Text
Keywords: critical materials; niobium; recycling; energy consumption; greenhouse gas emissions; dynamic model critical materials; niobium; recycling; energy consumption; greenhouse gas emissions; dynamic model
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Rahimpour Golroudbary, S.; Krekhovetckii, N.; El Wali, M.; Kraslawski, A. Environmental Sustainability of Niobium Recycling: The Case of the Automotive Industry. Recycling 2019, 4, 5.

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