Special Issue "The Circular Economy Challenge: Towards a Sustainable Development"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Environmental Sustainability and Applications".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 January 2021.

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Alessia Amato
Guest Editor
Department of Life and Environmental Sciences (DiSVA), Università Politecnica of Marche, Via Brecce Bianche, 60131 Ancona, Italy
Interests: hydrometallurgy; biotechnology; critical raw materials; life cycle assessment; circular economy; sustainability.

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The modern economy has been based on a linear design, where the keywords are “take”, “make”, “use”, and “dispose”. This approach has led to constant economic growth that neglects the real limits of our planet. The negative effects have been evident with consequences for both the environmental end the social spheres. Over the last decade, growing attention has been paid to the new model of a circular economy, in response to the global situation. The circular economy is not only a simple business model, but rather the integration of many strategies for the protection of the natural ecosystem and the maintenance of economic stability worldwide. A holistic approach is vital for the success of this new economy, where technological advancement must be combined with the assessment of the possible repercussion on the sustainability spheres (environmental, social, and economic). Many tools can support economy transactions, such as the life cycle assessment, able to push the strategic choices towards the impact reduction, in the most disparate fields.

This Special Issue will collect current knowledge and innovative methods developed in agreement with the main principles of the circular economy. New proposals should provide methods that act on the eco-design of processes/products and to exploit waste flows. Studies should supply unconventional models to evaluate systems from a holistic point of view. The further possibility of the achievement of indexes to describe the circularity level of a system could be essential for the implementation of sustainable policies.

Dr. Alessia Amato
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • Circular economy
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Social sustainability
  • Economic sustainability
  • Holistic approach
  • Life cycle assessment

Published Papers (1 paper)

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Open AccessArticle
Biotechnology for Metal Recovery from End-of-Life Printed Circuit Boards with Aspergillus niger
Sustainability 2020, 12(16), 6482; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12166482 - 11 Aug 2020
The growing production and use of electric and electronic components has led to higher rates of metal consumption and waste generation. To solve this double criticality, the old linear management method (in which a product becomes waste to dispose), has evolved towards a [...] Read more.
The growing production and use of electric and electronic components has led to higher rates of metal consumption and waste generation. To solve this double criticality, the old linear management method (in which a product becomes waste to dispose), has evolved towards a circular approach. Printed circuit boards (PCBs) are the brains of many electronic devices. At the end of their life, this equipment represents a valuable scrap for the content of base metals such as Cu and Zn (25 and 2 wt %, respectively) and precious metals such as Au, Ag, and Pd (250, 1000, and 110 ppm, respectively). Recently, biotechnological approaches have gained increasing prominence in PCB exploitation since they can be more cost-efficient and environmentally friendly than the chemical techniques. In this context, the present paper describes a sustainable process which uses the fungal strain Aspergillus niger for Cu and Zn extraction from PCBs. The best conditions identified were PCB addition after 14 days, Fe3+ as oxidant agent, and a pulp density of 2.5% (w/v). Extraction efficiencies of 60% and 40% for Cu and Zn, respectively, were achieved after 21 days of fermentation. The ecodesign of the process was further enhanced by using milk whey as substrate for the fungal growth and the consequent citric acid production, which was selected as a bioleaching agent. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Circular Economy Challenge: Towards a Sustainable Development)
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