SCM for secondary raw materials and urban mining

Urban Mining – The integration of circular economy into supply chains

The concept of "Urban Mining" describes the production of secondary commodities of waste products from civilization and production waste. Besides, the potential of urban mining is remarkably high: Thus, e.g., used toner cartridges show a higher percentage in gold than the material from which this precious metal is won in South Africa. Remains of buildings and electronic scrap are similarly rich raw material suppliers. Until now, not all secondary commodities can still be extracted to the costs which are competitive in comparison to the primary commodities. The cost gap however between secondary and primary resources diminishes increasingly. Since, while the prices of primary resources will rise in the long term, the technological progress leads to low production costs of secondary commodities. With some materials the matter of price in addition to that will not arise any more, but that of basic availability. Thus already today manufacturing companies ensure themselves access to scrap in order to secure themselves the precious metals which are available there.

From waste disposal to commodity trading

Beside the further development of technological methods for material recovery and processing, the organizational procedure and the management of material flows are to be arranged for the purpose of a supply chain management. In future the market for secondary commodities will adapt itself to the general market conditions of trade and industry. Thus secondary commodities must be available in secure quality and quantity. However, industrial and municipal waste as a basic material for secondary commodities do not accrue continuously and in quantities, but in small and smallest units with strong fluctuations, in quantity as well as in composition and quality. The processing industry though, needs secondary commodities continuously and with constant quality as it is accustomed from the supply of primary commodities in sense of SCM. Hence, the producers of the secondary commodities are asked on one side to provide suitable process engineering for a constant quality level and otherwise to make available the right basic raw material at the right time, by an optimized logistics.

The Fraunhofer IML supports you with its decades of experience in SCM and waste disposal logistics to make a safe step from waste disposal to commodity trading.


Information is the determining commodity of supply chain management. The enterprises with the best knowledge about the customer needs on one side and the material availability otherwise will remain competitive in the market in future. The better quantities and qualities are recorded, the more efficiently material flows are controlled. Therefore it is a matter of making quantities identifiable and manageable. The RFID technology offers basic approaches for this. The automatic identification of containers, bales or big bags, as well as of vehicles and actors make a control possible at all.

This necessary information is only available to the management of the supply chain after the identification of quantities and materials. To this the methods of the supply chain management, as for example adapting or developing cross-company information systems or the coordination of the production processes in order to also enable small and middle companies to make the step from waste disposal to commodity trading.

»The urban raw materials mine: Used toner cartridges contain proportionately more gold than ore from which this precious metal is won in South Africa.«