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10 June 2015

Closing the Loop


As society consumes more and more, we also produce more waste. Manufacturing industry is by no means an exception. Huge volumes of waste are produced, mainly in the mining industry but also in many other sectors, such as the paper, steel and food industries. However, only a small proportion of industrial waste is recovered or recycled. The challenge is to increase this proportion, which is currently just over 10%.

Metals, chemicals, plastics and other usable materials are still treated as waste. By making use of these materials through proper material recovery and recycling, we can close ecological loops in society. Well-designed recovery and recycling progresses help to save natural resources and reduce emissions into the environment.

‘Closing the Loop will help to bring about greater openmindedness and innovative thinking. Instead of seeing discarded products, we’ll describe material flows and technical characteristics, and try to find new markets for recovered materials.’ Evalena Blomqvist, Programme Director


This research is intended to develop methods for identifying resources better and restoring them to industry. Ways of doing this will include developing measuring and processing techniques  that enable industrial waste to be upcycled as raw and other materials without spreading pollutants. There is a particularly marked need to make recycling of complex products, such as electronics, computers and cars, more efficient.

A key aspect of the programme is facilitating collaboration among different industrial sectors. The programme comprises seven individual research projects (see the list below), involving various industries, with continuous exchange of thoughts and ideas among them throughout the programme period. Resource and waste flows in different sectors will be surveyed. Research on control instruments for encouraging material recycling and analysis of markets and business models for products made from recovered materials will also be carried out.

The seven projects (higher education institution in charge):

  • Realising Resource-efficient Recycling of Vehicles (Chalmers University of Technology)
  • Closing the Loop for Phosphorus in Chemical Industry Residues (Chalmers University of Technology)
  • Material Efficiency Management in Manufacturing (Mälardalen University)
  • Sustainable Recycling of Green Plastics and Industrial Plastic Waste (RISE Research Institutes of Sweden AB)
  • From Industrial Waste to Product Design (Chalmers University of Technology)
  • Increased Use of By-products and Wastes from the Steel Industry in Cement Production (Umeå University)
  • Production of Calcium Aluminate out of Aluminium Black Dross (Swerea MEFOS)


The programme will boost knowledge of resource flows in society and enlarge scope for value-enhancing upcycling of industrial by-products, waste products and waste in general. That this is feasible has previously been successfully demonstrated in Mistra’s Steel Eco-Cycle research programme, which developed a method of recovering the metal vanadium, in a quantity valued at some SEK 1 billion a year, from slag produced by the steel industry. Swedish industry is thereby becoming more competitive. In particular, the recovery and recycling industry’s potential to export Swedish environmental technology in the long term is being increased.

Successful projects that result in greater materials recovery and recycling in industry will reduce society’s environmental impact and help us to achieve the Swedish environmental objectives relating to waste. Stepping up materials recycling is a priority both in Swedish legislation and in the EU.


Programme period: 2012–2019

Funding: Mistra is investing SEK 88 million

Programme host: RISE Research Institutes of Sweden AB

Programme Director: Evalena Blomqvist, RISE

Programmes Director, Mistra: Åsa Moberg

Website: Programme website (in Swedish)external link

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