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A Circular Economy of Metals: Towards a Sustainable Societal Metabolism

Leiden University via Coursera


Metals are present everywhere around us and are one of the major materials upon which our economies are built. Economic development is deeply coupled with the use of metals. During the 20th century, the variety of metal applications in society grew rapidly. In addition to mass applications such as steel in buildings and aluminium in planes, more and more different metals are in use for innovative technologies such as the use of the speciality metal indium in LCD screens.

A lot of metals will be needed in the future. It will not be easy to provide them. In particular in emerging economies, but also in industrialised countries, the demand for metals is increasing rapidly. Mining and production activities expand, and with that also the environmental consequences of metal production.

In this course, we will explore those consequences and we will also explore options to move towards a more sustainable system of metals production and use. We will focus especially on the options to reach a circular economy for metals: keeping metals in use for a very long time, to avoid having to mine new ones.

This course is based on the reports of the Global Metals Flows Group of the International Resource Panel that is part of UN Environment. An important aspect that will come back each week, are the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the SDGs. Those are ambitious goals to measure our progress towards a more sustainable world. We will use the SDGs as a touching stone for the assessment of the metals challenge, as well as the solutions we present in this course to solve that challenge.

Taught by

Ester van der Voet


4.8 rating, based on 5 Class Central reviews

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  • Anonymous
    Particpating in this course was a wonderful experience. The lectures were lucid and the lecturers did well to convey the ideas and help me understand to a good extent, how effects of the global demand for metals can be solved by the circular economy principles.

    I got a lot of ideas and the course modules were helpful and easy to navigate.

    The assignments and peer review tasks also helped me think deeply about what I learned and also get fresh perspectives from my peers.

    I high recommend this course to anyone who has interest in learning about Circular Economy as it relates with metals, mining and Development.
  • Anonymous
    First I would like to thank Professor Ester van der Voet for the video great lectures and also to the course managers to put together a very precious collections of suggested papers and books related to this subject. The course offers an excellent content and opportunity to initiate the learning on Circular Economy of Metals and how CE can support the UN to succeed on the SDG's goals and targets.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Hard class (at least for me...) but soooo interesting.
    Insights and lectures from top specialists give you an expert point of view, state of the art information, future trends with different scenarios,...
    I had completed "Circular Economy: an introduction" and "Sustainable packaging for a Circular Economy' from Delft University (on Great classes too and great introduction to these topics (which I didn't know much about). But this one on Metal was really in-depth learning for me.

    Keep up the great work and thank you for giving us the opportunity to keep training on these new subjects or issues.

    Bernard Bensoussan.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Several weeks ago, I did not know much about metal life cycle and its challenges. This course helped me get familiar with all aspects of this wide topic. I feel I have a solid background now and that I would know where to look for more in-depth information. The course is about metals from their extraction to their recycling. For each step in the cycle, greener and substainable solutions are proposed and discussed. All the course is based on a solid background, mostly from UNEP. I highly recommend this course that will widen your understanding of the circular enconomy, applied in this case to metals.
  • Madona O. Yagyagen

    Madona O. Yagyagen completed this course.

    Before anything else, I thank all of the instructors online most especially to Ma'am Ester van der Voet. I have learned a lot from this course regarding metals. Even how it is related to SDGs. I found it interesting. It is a bit tough but I made it. I really wanted to have the certificate, so may I ask if there are other terms of payment through accredited banks to pay for it? Thank you for responding.

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