Project Title: Circular Economy Analysis of the South African Automotive industry.
Research Theme: Mineral Value Chains and Strategic Minerals
Supervisor(s): Harro von Blottnitz, Jochen Petersen
Waste is produced at an alarming rate as a result of anthropogenic activities and is directly linked to the economic models of industries. Linear economies are increasingly viewed as inefficient and wasteful – opening the path for more sustainable economic models. A circular economy is a strategic system designed to eliminate waste by repeated resource use. The global automotive industry is a major consumer of natural resources, including metals, and a leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. This is experienced both globally and in the South African context. Metal recycling is common in the automotive industry. However, critical evaluation indicates that automotive electronics and composite materials are often overlooked in these recycling processes. Furthermore, automotive electronics are similar to WEEE streams – containing rare metals which are recoverable. The growth of the South African electric vehicle sector further increases the complexity of shifting from a linear to circular economy.
Life cycle assessment serves as a tool for evaluating the multifaceted South African automotive industry. Modelling may also be useful for comparing linear and circular economies. This data will contribute to the development of future standards and regulations and assist in evaluating sustainable and efficient practices to reduce waste production and conserve resources.