Materials passports and Circular Economy

Manufacturers and their customers are looking for reliable and convenient data on product designs, pathways, and composition in order to determine their potential for a Circular Economy (CE), including: optimal productivity, recycling vs. downcycling, and optimising residual value of materials. Due to the CE, demand is growing for ways to put the recovery potential of materials, products and systems into practice. Existing tools only partially meet those needs because they focus more on measuring and reducing negative environmental impacts rather than increasing positive value creation.
Materials Passports are a tool to put the CE into practice. Materials Passports, as well as an accompanying software system, are being developed in the BAMB project, based on the concept described in the publication ‘Resource Re-Pletion.’ (Hansen, Braungart, Mulhall, 2012)1, using the term Nutrient Certificates:

“Nutrient Certificates are sets of data describing defined characteristics of materials in products that give them value for recovery and reuse. The certificates are a marketplace mechanism to encourage product designs, material recovery systems, and chain of possession partnerships that improve the quality, value, and security of supply for materials so they can be reused in continuous loops or closed loops or beneficially returned to biological systems. This is done by adding a new value dimension to materials quality. This new dimension is based on the suitability of materials for recovery and reuse as resources in other products and processes.”

The scope of passports is on the level of materials, products and systems. This means that a single passport would refer to a material, product or system. For a material it can define its value for recovery. For products and systems it can define general characteristics that make them valuable for recovery such as their design for disassembly, but it can also describe specifics about a single product or system in its application. For instance, the connection of a product to a building is essential to understand its value for recovery.

1- Resource Re-Pletion. Role Of Buildings. Introducing Nutrient Certificates A.K.A Materials Passports As A Counterpart To Emissions Trading Schemes, Katja Hansen, Michael Braungart, Douglas Mulhall, The Springer Encyclopedia of Sustainability Science and Technology Meyers, Robert A. (Ed.) July 2012

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