Sustainability assessment and policy research

General theme: The Research Line investigates the environmental impacts, economic feasibility and Social License to Operate of new flow sheets for the extraction, recovery and/or recycling of metals and/or minerals from low-grade ores, industrial process residues, and End-of-Life consumer goods. Particular attention goes out to the legal, social and economic bottlenecks, while also assessing the opportunities and possible incentives for sustainable (inorganic) materials management. Concurrently, SIM² KU Leuven uses a multi-actor, collaborative approach to obtain and maintain the Social License to Operate for mining and recycling projects. This Research Line is fully synchonised with the clean energy and smart moblity targets set forth in the European Green Deal (EC,COM(2019)640), A new Circular Economy Action Plan (EC,COM(2020)98) and A New Industrial Strategy for Europe (EC,COM(2020)102).

Flagship topics:

Prospective sustainability assessments

Methodologies such as LCA, LCC, CBA, exergy, dynamic MFA are further developed and applied on sustainable inorganic materials management developments, from laboratory to industrial and value chain scale. The assessments evaluate the economic, ecological and social opportunities within new material recycling and recovery flow sheets developed by the other RLs of SIM² or external (industrial and academic) partners.

Risk assessment of metals and metalloids in the environment

The environmental risk of metals and metalloids is controlled by the speciation of these compounds. This means that total concentrations are only poor indicators of risk. SIM² KU Leuven performs the risk assessment of metals and metalloids in the environment and in the food chain. The assessments can be desk-top based or use environmental monitoring and testing of speciation and toxicity. The risk assessments can be generic, e.g. for REACH or CLP, can be regional based, i.e. defining clean-up limits and can be site specific, i.e. at mine sites, landfills, waste treatment or in workplaces.

Policy research and Impact assessment studies

The broader economic, legal, and environmental context (with focus on criticality of resources and impact on climate change) is taken into account in consequential sustainability studies, multi-criteria analyses of complex problems, partial and general equilibrium economic models, etc. The impact of national and European legislation on SIM² related technologies will also be covered. The aim is to come to relevant indicators for sustainable materials management, guiding policy makers in governmental agencies and companies. The policy research centre CE is the driver for this subtopic.

Social License to Operate for primary, urban and landfill mining projects

Action research and bidirectional interaction with external stakeholders, including civil society groups and local communities, are set up to ensure projects that take the local context into account. This includes stakeholder analyses on local and regional levels, local dialogue, participatory monitoring and evaluation, and multi-stakeholder governance.

The Team:

Prof. Karel Van Acker

Sustainability assessments of materials and circular economy (SAM)

Prof. Marc Craps

Research Centre for Economics and Corporate Sustainability (CEDON)

Prof. Luc Alaerts

Sustainability assessments of materials and circular economy

Prof. Simon De Jaeger

Research Centre for Economics and Corporate Sustainability (CEDON)

Prof. Karen Allacker

Architectural Engineering (Department of Architecture)

Prof. Erik Smolders

Division Soil and Water Management - Dep' Earth & Environmental Sciences

Prof. Valerie Cappuyns

Environmental Science and Technology (CEDON)

Prof. Jo Van Caneghem

Chemistry for Energy & Materials Recovery in Thermal Systems

Prof. Geert Van Calster

Research Unit International & European Law - Institute for European Law

Dr. Marion Bechtold

Materials Research Centre (MRC) - Industrial Research Fund (IOF)

Prof. Johan Eyckmans

Research Centre for Economics and Corporate Sustainability (CEDON)

Prof. Joost Duflou

Research Group Life Cycle Engineering - Manufacturing Processes and Systems

Piet Wostyn

Laboratory of Metallurgical Chemistry (SOLVOMET)

Prof. Wim Dewulf

Manufacturing Processes & Systems

Dr. Andrea Di Maria

Sustainability assessments of materials and circular economy