Urban Mining: Applying Digital Twins for Sustainable Product Cascade Use

Prof. Dr. Sabine Baumann, Dr. Alexandra Pehlken
2020 IEEE International Conference on Engineering, Technology and Innovation (ICE/ITMC)
Due to the ever-increasing consumption of resources, various materials and raw materials have become increasingly scarce and consequently expensive. At the same time, energy demand has dramatically increased in global mining operations also intensifying economic pressure. Surprisingly, the recapturing of important raw materials at the end of the product life cycle through recycling is still insufficiently implemented in the supply chain. Recycling is not only a sink for unwanted materials it can become an urban mine. This is especially relevant in Europe, where in comparison to other continents primary raw material mining of bulk materials is rather low. In a situation of scarcity, the exact planning of raw material and material flows for the following months (and sometimes years) has become ever more vital to ensure their timely and sufficient availability for production. A missing piece is the necessary transfer of production information (like bill of materials, BOM) to the recycler because information is typically kept inside the production supply chain. Digital technologies such as Digital Twins can help provide this information to the End-of-Life (EoL) stakeholders (recycling industry) as a means to increase the potential of circular economy. This paper establishes urban mining as an important concept of life cycle management in the circular economy. It uses a case study approach to explore the potential of urban mining for resource savings. The authors demonstrate that urban mining represents a high-impact application of sustainable engineering within life cycle management where Digital Twins help increase impact on sustainability.
09 / 2020
IEEE Xplore