Resources Management & Industrial Ecology

Main content

The aspiration to close traditionally linear energy and material flows within the economy, analogous to the flows in biological ecosystems, lies at the center of a scientific field known as industrial ecology. Identifying opportunities to reduce environmental impact and create more efficient uses of resources through the closing of material cycles is one of the main objectives.

In collaboration with industry and authorities we have published various tools for the environmental assessment of waste treatment and industrial co-processing of waste raw materials and fuels. In our current research, we combine the methodological tools of Material Flow Anaylsis (MFA), Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), scenario analysis and mathematical optimization to environmentally optimize systems such as (national) waste or resource management systems or regional building energy demand and supply. We also perform such environmental system optimizations in a prospective manner, e.g. for new technologies.

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MFA + LCA + Optimization

Optimization refers to an act, process, or methodology of making something as fully perfect, functional or effective as possible (Merriam Webster). This represents a novel area of interest of the ESD group and implies a step beyond what is commonly covered in a scenario-based Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). Our main motivation for exploring the opportunities to combine LCA with optimization techniques is that it offers a way to systematically determine the environmentally-optimal solution or the maximum improvement potential out of a very large set of feasible system or process configurations. It also enables us to consider resource availability and other system- or process-specific constraints to better reflect the decision making context. Departing from the previous and ongoing work in modelling of energy technologies, industrial processes and waste management systems, our aim is to be develop methodologies for optimization of energy and material flows on a regional or national system level.

Current Research Projects

Finished Research Projects

Prospective Assessment

New technologies’ impacts are difficult to assess because little is known on their future environmental performance. However, a prospective assessment of new technologies is of tremendous importance in order to avoid long-term and extensive environmental effects and to identify proactive strategies to prevent adverse impacts before they occur. In our research, we address the hot spots of such technologies and implement methods for prospective assessments like scenario analysis into LCA. We also combine scenario analysis with material flow analysis and life cycle assessment to develop strategies for sustainable resource management and waste management. Finally, we quantify the effect of technology learning and scaling on the trajectory of  environmental impacts of new technologies, to enable a fair comparison between mature and new technologies.  

In our teaching activities, we dedicated one Master-level class to this topic.

Current Research Projects

Finished Research Projects

Tools for waste management and industrial co-processing

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