AIME Focuses on Circular Economy for Societal Sustainability
The American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers (AIME), a founding member society of the United Engineering Foundation (UEF), hosted Engineering Solutions for Sustainability: Materials and Resources – Towards a Circular Economy, an international workshop, at the Annual Conference of the Society for Mining Metallurgy & Exploration (SME) in Denver Colorado on February 18-19, 2017. The Organizing Committee of the workshop is pleased to place in your hands the proceedings of this vitally important socio-technical event. The committee is thankful to the event planning partners - The American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) along with the four member societies of AIME – AIST, SME, SPE and TMS, and the sponsors – Center for Resource recovery & Recycling at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and organizations on Engineering for Social Responsibility and Humanitarian Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines. The three planning partners represent a total worldwide membership of 350,000 engineers. The event, supported by a generous grant from AIME, brought together academics, industry, and economic experts and governmental and non-governmental representatives to discuss societal challenges in the areas of transportation, energy, recycling, housing, food and water, and health. The workshop explored potential ways that the engineering profession can aid in addressing the needs for societal sustainability through technological, educational, and public policy solutions in these six primarily vital societal needs. Over the course of the workshop that included presentations by experts and breakout sessions, the attendees were challenged by the program committee to address the following questions:
- What does sustainability mean for these sectors and why should we care?
- What technologies and engineering approaches exist and/or are being used now in these sectors?
- What technological and engineering advances are in the development and near-commercialization stages?
- What materials & resources will these technologies require?
- How do we sustainably produce these materials and resources following the principles of circular economy?
- How might policies and markets support or limit implementation of these technologies?
- What about the Human Element?
- What are the next steps?
This workshop followed the two very successful workshops held in Lausanne, Switzerland (2009) and Orlando, Florida (2015).
It is envisaged that future steps will allow the engineering community to understand the cross-linkages and dependencies between the different sectors and the importance of circular economy to each. This understanding can then be used to advance materials and resource-related action items for meeting the identified needs in each of these areas.
Nearly 60 experts gathered for a multisector symposium with the objectives of networking and sharing best practices. This successful event demonstrated that there was significant enthusiasm for pursuing a cross-disciplinary, cross-sectoral sustainability challenge, in the form of a project partnership with seasoned members from industry, government, NGO, and academia with opportunities for students. The gathering emphatically established the need to adopt the framework of circular economy as an alternative to a linear economy, in which goods and resources are disposed at the end of their useful life. In a circular economy, goods and resources are used for as long as possible to extract their maximum value before they are recovered. A circular economy requires:
- Raw material and energy inputs
- Feasible engineering solutions
- Cross-sectoral flows and linkages
- Effective policy measures
- Education and research
Key focus areas from these workshops have established that the engineering system must be affordable and protective of the environment, and it must be consistent with public policies that adequately address the technical challenges across sectors. The system must meet the user’s needs over its life cycle, and it must ensure that both short- and long-term operational goals are appropriately considered. Building on these themes, the various panels at the workshop explored the interdependent roles each play in bringing about a sustainable future. The outcome of these discussions resulted in a vision for a sustainable world where affordable and reliable resources support the social, economic, and environmental needs of a growing population. This book has tried to capture valuable information from this workshop and we sincerely hope that you will find it useful.