In Pursuit of Closed-Loop Supply Chains for Critical Materials: An Exploratory Study in the Green Energy Sector

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Journal of Industrial Ecology, 2018
Issue Date:
2018-01-01
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© 2018, Yale University. A closed-loop supply chain (CLSC) is considered not only an important solution for ensuring sustainable exploitation of materials, but also a promising strategy for securing long-term availability of materials. The latter is especially highlighted in the materials criticality discourse. Critical raw materials (CRMs), being exposed to supply disruptions, create an uncertain operational environment for many industries, particularly for green energy technologies that employ multiple CRMs. However, recycling rates of CRMs are very low and engagement of companies in CLSC for CRM is limited. This study examines factors influencing CLSC for CRM development in photovoltaic panels and wind turbine technologies. The aim is to analyze how the factors manifest themselves in different companies along the supply chain and to identify enabling and bottleneck conditions for implementation of CLSC for CRM. The novelty of the study is twofold: the focus on material rather than product flows, and examination of factors from a multiactor perspective. The evidence obtained suggests that the manufacturing companies and reverse supply-chain operators engaged in the study take different perspectives (product vs. material) regarding development of CLSC for CRM and thus emphasize different factors. The findings underline the need for interactions between supply-chain actors, a sound competitive environment for recycling processes, and investment in technologies and infrastructure development if CLSC for CRM is to be developed. The paper provides implications for practitioners and policy makers for implementation of CLSC for CRM, and suggests prospects for further research.
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