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 RL is embedded in and forms the core of the informal cluster “CE@KU Leuven” in which also other CE strategies, such as sharing economy, repair economy, eco-design etc. are studied as well as recovery technologies for biobased and composite materials.

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

Research Line Leader

Prof. Marc Craps

Senior lecturer – researcher

Prof. Luc Alaerts


Prof. Valerie Cappuyns

Senior Lecturer

Prof. Geert Van Calster


Prof. Jo Van Caneghem


Prof. Wim Dewulf


Prof. Johan Eyckmans

Professor in Environmental Economics

Piet Wostyn


Prof. Joost Duflou


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