Circular Economy Platforms for Metals

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Circular economy platforms for metals are digital marketplaces and collaborative networks that facilitate the exchange, reuse, and recycling of metals and metal-containing products. These platforms connect various stakeholders in the metal value chain – from metal producers and manufacturers to recyclers and end-users – enabling a more sustainable and efficient flow of materials and minimizing waste.

Impact on climate action

Circular Economy Platforms for Metals enhance climate action by promoting the reuse and recycling of metals, reducing the need for energy-intensive mining and production. By extending the lifespan of metals and minimizing waste, this innovation significantly lowers carbon emissions, contributing to a more sustainable and resource-efficient future.


  • Digital Marketplaces: Online platforms facilitate trading and exchange of scrap metal, recycled metals, and metal-containing products, connecting buyers and sellers across different geographical locations and industries.
  • Traceability and Transparency: Blockchain technology, digital ledgers, and material passports enable tracking the origin, composition, and processing history of metals, ensuring transparency and authenticity throughout the supply chain.
  • Data Analytics and AI: These technologies are used to optimize material flows, match supply and demand, predict metal availability, and identify opportunities for material reuse and recycling.
  • Circular Economy Business Models: Platforms promote circular economy principles by facilitating product life extension, enabling material sharing and reuse, and supporting closed-loop recycling systems.

TRL : 6-7

Prominent Innovation themes

  • AI-Powered Material Matching: Advanced algorithms analyze data on metal composition, properties, and availability to match supply and demand efficiently, connecting businesses that need specific metals with those who have them as byproducts or waste.
  • Smart Contracts and Blockchain: Utilizing blockchain technology for secure transactions, automated contracts, and transparent material tracking, ensuring traceability and accountability within the circular metal ecosystem.
  • Reverse Logistics Integration: Platforms incorporate reverse logistics solutions to facilitate the collection and return of metal products for reuse, repair, or recycling, promoting product life extension and minimizing waste.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Digital Metal Marketplace Integration
  • Blockchain-enabled Metal Traceability
  • AI-Driven Metal Supply Optimization
  • Circular Economy Platform Development
  • Scrap Metal Trading Solutions
  • Recycled Metal Exchange Networks
  • Material Passport Implementation
  • Transparent Metal Supply Chains
  • Data Analytics for Metal Flows
  • AI-Powered Metal Demand Forecasting
  • Material Reuse Opportunities Identification
  • Closed-Loop Recycling Systems Integration
  • Smart Contract Implementation in Metal Transactions
  • Secure Metal Transaction Platforms
  • Reverse Logistics for Metal Products
  • Product Life Extension Strategies

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Metalshub (Germany):
    • Technology Focus: Metalshub specializes in creating digital platforms for trading and sourcing metals, particularly focusing on facilitating transactions within the circular economy framework. Their platform likely incorporates features for tracking the origin and lifecycle of metals to ensure transparency and sustainability.
    • Uniqueness: Metalshub stands out for its digital marketplace tailored specifically for metals, offering efficient and transparent trading processes. Their emphasis on the circular economy aligns with the growing demand for sustainable practices in the metal industry.
    • End-User Segments: Their platform caters to a wide range of end-users in industries that rely on metals, including manufacturing, construction, automotive, and electronics. Companies looking to source metals sustainably or participate in circular economy initiatives would find Metalshub’s platform valuable.
  • Circulor (UK):
    • Technology Focus: Circulor specializes in supply chain traceability solutions, leveraging technologies like blockchain and AI to track the provenance and lifecycle of metals. Their platform likely enables companies to verify the sustainability credentials of metals and ensure compliance with environmental regulations.
    • Uniqueness: Circulor is unique for its focus on supply chain transparency and sustainability, offering end-to-end traceability solutions for metals. Their technology empowers companies to make informed decisions about sourcing metals from ethical and environmentally responsible suppliers.
    • End-User Segments: Their platform serves industries with a focus on sustainability and responsible sourcing, such as automotive, electronics, aerospace, and renewable energy. Companies aiming to enhance their supply chain transparency and meet sustainability goals would benefit from Circulor’s solutions.
  • The Metals Company (Canada):
    • Technology Focus: The Metals Company, formerly known as DeepGreen Metals, specializes in the responsible sourcing of metals from deep-sea mineral deposits, contributing to the circular economy by providing an alternative to traditional mining. Their technology likely involves deep-sea exploration, extraction, and processing methods.
    • Uniqueness: The Metals Company is unique for its focus on deep-sea mineral resources and its commitment to sustainable mining practices. By tapping into deep-sea deposits, they offer a potentially less environmentally impactful alternative to terrestrial mining.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments include industries requiring metals for manufacturing processes, such as automotive, electronics, renewable energy, and infrastructure development. Companies seeking to reduce their environmental footprint and source metals sustainably may consider partnering with The Metals Company.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):
    • Technology Enhancements: MIT researchers are focusing on developing innovative recycling technologies and processes for low-carbon metals. They are exploring advanced separation techniques, such as electrochemical and hydrometallurgical methods, to efficiently recover valuable metals from end-of-life products and industrial waste streams.
    • Uniqueness of Research: MIT’s approach involves integrating circular economy principles into the design of metal production and recycling systems. They are developing digital platforms and decision support tools to optimize material flows, minimize waste generation, and maximize resource efficiency throughout the metal lifecycle.
    • End-use Applications: The research at MIT has implications for various industries, including electronics, automotive, and renewable energy sectors. By implementing circular economy platforms for metals, companies can reduce their reliance on primary metal extraction, mitigate environmental pollution, and create new opportunities for sustainable materials management.
  • Delft University of Technology (Netherlands):
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at Delft University of Technology are focusing on developing novel alloy designs and processing techniques to produce low-carbon metals with improved performance and sustainability. They are exploring the use of alternative raw materials, such as recycled scrap and bio-based feedstocks, to reduce the carbon footprint of metal production.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Delft’s research integrates principles of circular economy and industrial ecology into the design of metal alloys and manufacturing processes. They are investigating closed-loop material flows and symbiotic relationships between industries to create more resilient and resource-efficient metal supply chains.
    • End-use Applications: The research at Delft University of Technology has applications in various sectors, including aerospace, construction, and consumer goods. By developing low-carbon metals with tailored properties, companies can reduce the weight of products, improve energy efficiency, and enhance durability, leading to lower environmental impact and lifecycle costs.
  • Yale University (USA):
    • Technology Enhancements: Yale researchers are focusing on developing advanced modeling and simulation tools to optimize the environmental performance of metal production and recycling processes. They are exploring the use of life cycle assessment (LCA) and techno-economic analysis (TEA) to evaluate the sustainability metrics of different metal production pathways.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Yale’s approach involves a holistic assessment of the environmental, social, and economic impacts of metal production and consumption. They are investigating the trade-offs between different sustainability criteria and identifying opportunities for system-wide improvements through policy interventions and stakeholder engagement.
    • End-use Applications: The research at Yale University has implications for policymakers, industry stakeholders, and consumers seeking to transition towards a low-carbon economy. By providing insights into the environmental and social implications of metal production and consumption, Yale’s research can inform decision-making processes and promote more sustainable practices across the metal value chain.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Circular economy platforms for metals are gaining traction, with companies like Metalshub and Circulor attracting significant users and facilitating metal trading and traceability. These platforms are still in their early stages of commercial implementation, but their adoption is growing as the metals industry embraces digitalization and circular economy principles.