Circular economy: A sustainable management strategy for rare earth elements consumption in Australia

Mejame Mejame, Palle Paul, King, David, Banhalmi-Zakar, Zsuzsa, and He, Yinghe (2022) Circular economy: A sustainable management strategy for rare earth elements consumption in Australia. Current Research in Environmental Sustainability, 4. 100157.

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Rare earth elements (REEs) are a major constituent of many advanced materials in the information and telecommunication industries, as well as the renewable and energy efficiency sectors. REEs are enablers of speed, performance, durability, and low carbon emissions in these industries. They are required in everyday applications because of their unique chemical and physical properties. Given the rise in environmental concerns and consequent demand for REEs and the limited locations where REEs can be sourced, there is a very high risk of supply disruption.

Despite the threat of REE supply risk and its environmental and economic significance, an in-depth examination of the environmental impact and benefits of sustainable consumption of these metals in Australia, as in many other parts of the world, holistically and systematically is lacking, particularly regarding improvement in resource efficiency strategies. Most previous work on REEs has focused either on the politico-economic conflicts over supply and distribution, or the environmental and social impacts of its production and has not holistically examined this problem, as a system.

This paper provides a review of REEs' sustainable consumption in Australia. The study highlights Circular Economy (CE) as a scientifically plausible picture of sustainable management strategy to help address the adverse impacts of resource (REEs) shortages while achieving maximum environmental benefits. It provides answers to how sustainable are the current strategies of REEs consumption and how this can be enhanced from a CE perspective. A comprehensive CE framework was developed, followed by an illustrative example of CE as a tool for sustainability management and a practical implementation strategy to close the material loop and improve resource efficiency.

Item ID: 74689
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2666-0490
Keywords: Circular economy, Material efficiency, Material use, Rare earth elements, Resource efficiency, Sustainability
Copyright Information: © 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (
Date Deposited: 24 Nov 2022 23:08
FoR Codes: 40 ENGINEERING > 4014 Manufacturing engineering > 401408 Manufacturing processes and technologies (excl. textiles) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 25 MINERAL RESOURCES (EXCL. ENERGY RESOURCES) > 2501 Environmentally sustainable mineral resource activities > 250199 Environmentally sustainable mineral resource activities not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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