Keywords: platinum group metals, PGMs, materials flow analysis, recycling ratio, automotive catalysts, Germany, closed loop industrial systems, open loop consumer systems, sustainable manufacturing, sustainability
Materials flow of platinum group metals in Germany
Platinum group metals have become indispensable in modern industrial society and the demand for PGMs has greatly increased. An in-depth quantitative analysis of PGM applications, lifecycle structure, deficits and optimisation potential in Germany has been carried out by Umicore Precious Metals Refining and Oko-Institute. Besides detailed insights into one of the more opaque metal markets, the study elaborates fundamental differences between lifecycles of industrial applications and those in the consumer sector, which are relevant beyond PGMs also for other materials. While 'closed loop' systems in the industrial sector inherently lead to high lifecycle recycling rates, the 'open loop' consumer systems usually imply significant metal losses. Main deficits lay in insufficient collection rates of end-of-life products, global export streams of 'consumer scrap' and inefficiencies in the early, 'sub-industrial' steps of the recycling chain. The study also develops the aspect of 'static' and 'dynamic' recycling ratios, which has to be considered when lifecycle efficiencies in growing (or decreasing) application areas are evaluated.