In view of the climate crisis, establishing efficient and clean anthropogenic resource systems is more important than ever. That means closing material cycles and reducing emissions. This requires an integrated perspective on resource systems, because optimizing them is a complex task due to diverse supply, use and utilization paths of anthropogenic resources.
At the Research Center for Resource Management and Solid Waste Engineering we use systems analysis techniques to optimize anthropogenic resource systems with regard to their material flows and environmental impacts. Our focus is on the evaluation of the “rear end” of the anthropogenic metabolism building on the material and energy flow modeling of waste management systems, treatment and recycling processes. Therefore, we apply Material Flow Analysis (MFA) and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) often using specific software tools such as STAN, openLCA and EASETECH. In this context, MFA serves to investigate material flow patterns and to evaluate system performance by determining material efficiencies. Furthermore, we use MFA results as a basis for LCA, which are central to assess environmental performance of waste-resource systems and optimize them from an environmental perspective.
One major anthropogenic resource in the focus of our research is plastic. Since plastic fulfills diverse material requirements, it is used in a wide variety of industries and applications, such as in the construction sector, in the automotive sector, in electrical and electronic equipment, in medical technology or as packaging material. Plastic offers many advantages, but it is also associated with negative effects on people and the environment due to fossil resource consumption as well as environmental impacts on various scales. Because the environmental impact of plastic use is highly dependent on the type and efficiency of plastic waste management (e.g. open dumping vs. incineration vs. recycling etc.), developing and implementing strategies for more circular plastic systems is key for making plastic use more sustainable.
Currently, our main interest in the field of plastic waste is about the management and recycling of household-related plastic products, such as packaging or single-use products.
Primary raw materials are limited in supply and their production is often associated with sub-stantial environmental impacts. In order to reduce environmental pressure of raw material supply as well as to increase the circularity of resource use, the processing, upgrading and recycling of wastes and residual materials is the key characteristic of modern waste man-agement. In order to identify suitable processing schemes and thus ecologically and econom-ically attractive recovery options, it is essential to characterize wastes and residual materials with regard to their pollutant and resource potentials.
In the Research Center for Resource Management and Solid Waste Engineering we are in-terested in methods for sampling and sample preparation, which allow for representative characterization of different material flows and with respect to different analytes. In this con-text, we perform experimental studies to investigate factors that are decisive for the recovery of valuable materials and for the reduction of pollutants in products. Based on the study re-sults we develop strategies for more resource-efficient management of waste in view of dif-ferent waste compositions and boundary conditions.
Because more than half of the waste generated in Germany is mineral waste, e.g. construc-tion and demolition waste or solid residues from waste incineration, a focus of our research on waste characterization is on the utilization of mineral wastes in high quality building products. This will save natural resources and reduce environmental impacts of production.
Content under construction.