Economic Dimensions of Material Flows of Iron, Steel and Aluminium in the UK

Funded by: Biffaward (with contributions from Corus and European Aluminium Association)

Duration:

October 2002 to January 2004

Collaborators:

Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey

Background, summary and aims

Background and Aims

The Biffaward series of Mass Balance and Material Flow Analysis projects, of which this proposed project is a part, is making a unique contribution to the development of material flow analysis data and understanding in the UK. The purpose of these studies is ultimately to provide the data basis for developing, and helping policy makers to operationalise, such ideas as resource productivity, sustainable resource management and waste minimisation. This proposal is based on the perception that it is time to start the process within the Biffaward projects of relating the material flow analysis to economic variables and technologies, in a process called Value Chain Analysis, which is described further below. This project is closely linked to, and will use the data from, a sister Biffaward project being undertaken by the Centre for Environmental Strategy (CES) at the University of Surrey, which will collect and synthesise data on all the material and energy flows associated with the production, use, recovery and reuse of iron, steel and aluminium in the UK. The purpose of this project at PSI is to investigate the economic values associated with the material flows and stocks identified by the CES project, to map the value chain corresponding to the material flows, and see how these values influence material recovery and productivity.

Project Design  

The CES project is investigating flows of aluminium, iron and steel through the economy, from raw material to wastes and recycling. At each stage of processing, these flows have an associated economic value. In each case the values added will be determined by the technologies applied to the materials, and will therefore change over time as the technologies change. The project will trace this process of technical change using the time-series MFA developed by CES. This will give important insights into changes in the resource productivity associated with iron, steel and aluminium over this period.

When products become wastes they have a negative value, which has to be cancelled out by the value added by the waste management industry as it transports and processes the wastes for final disposal. The value of products and materials at the re-use/recycling/waste disposal stage depends crucially on waste management regulations and the existence of markets for re-used/recycled materials. The project is exploring in detail this interaction between the value of materials at the end of their first (intended) use, waste management regulations, and the cost of final disposal of wastes, especially as that cost is affected by government policy.

Importance of Research  

This research will give insights, both to the industries concerned, as to how and with what processes they add most value to their raw materials, and to the industries and to policy makers as to how government policy has affected the recycling and disposal of iron, steel and aluminium in the past. Such analysis will help stakeholders understand how policy can affect the re-use and recycling of materials and contribute to waste minimisation. In this way the project will produce detailed results for the development of resource productivity in the iron, steel and aluminium sectors over the years covered by the data from the CES project. It will also show the key drivers in policy and markets for the promotion of sustainable resource use and waste minimisation.

For further information contact Kristina Dahlstrom.

Outcomes


Dahlström, K., Ekins, P., He, J., Davis, J. and Clift, R. (2004), Iron, Steel and Aluminium in the UK: Material Flows and their Economic Dimensions. Executive Summary Report, April 2004. Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey, Guildford /Policy Studies Institute, London.

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Dahlström, K., Ekins, P., He, J., Davis, J. and Clift, R. (2004), Iron, Steel and Aluminium in the UK: Material Flows and their Economic Dimensions . Final Project Report, March 2004. Joint Working Paper, Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey, Guildford/Policy Studies Institute, London.

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