A Material Flow-based Approach to Enhance Resource Efficiency in Production and Recycling Networks


  • Magnus Fröhling,

    Corresponding author
    • Address correspondence to: Magnus Fröhling, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology – Institute of Industrial Production (IIP), Hertzstraße 16, Karlsruhe D-76187, Germany. Email: magnus.froehling@kit.edu

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  • Frank Schwaderer,

  • Hauke Bartusch,

  • Frank Schultmann


Resource and energy efficiency are key strategies for production and recycling networks. They can contribute to more sustainable industrial production and can help cope with challenges such as competition, rising resource and energy prices, greenhouse gas emissions reduction, and scarce and expensive landfill space. In pursuit of these objectives, further enhancements of single processes are often technologically sophisticated and expensive due to past achievements that have brought the processes closer to technical optima. Nevertheless, the potential for network-wide advancements may exist. Methods are required to identify and assess the potential for promising resource and energy efficiency measures from technical, economic, and ecological perspectives. This article presents an approach for a material flow-based techno-economic as well as ecological analysis and assessment of resource efficiency measures in production and recycling networks. Based on thermodynamic process models of different production and recycling processes, a material and energy flow model of interlinked production and recycling processes on the level of chemical compounds is developed. The model can be used to improve network-wide resource efficiency by analyzing and assessing measures in scenario and sensitivity analyses. A necessary condition for overcoming technical and economic barriers for implementing such measures can be fulfilled by identifying strategies that appear technologically feasible and economically and ecologically favorable. An exemplary application to a production and recycling network of the German steel and zinc industry is presented. From a methodological point of view, the approach shows one way of introducing thermodynamics and further technological aspects into industrial planning and assessment.