A new MOOC on the metals challenge

Monday 13 October is the starting date for the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) "Wheels of Metals: Urban Mining for a Circular Economy".

Without metals, modern civilization would be impossible. Worldwide, and in particular in emerging economies, the demand for metals is rapidly increasing. In addition to mass applications, like steel in buildings, copper in wires and aluminium in airplanes, more and more metals are required for innovative technologies such as the use of rare earth elements in renewable energy systems.

Construction site in Liverpool (Creative Commons)

Construction site in Liverpool (Creative Commons)

The continued increase in metals demand and use over the 20th century has led to substantial social, economic and environmental challenges. Mining activities expand but easily accessible deposits are becoming scarce. As a result, the supply of critical metals is under an increasing pressure. This implies recycling, also referred to as “urban mining”, is of growing importance in generating raw materials. In the end, the only really effective solution to the metals challenge will be to move towards a circular economy. To be able to do that, information is needed on metal stocks in society, their size and residence time, as well as on the technologies that are available to recover these metals when the stocks become obsolete.

The MOOC Wheels of Metals is based on the reports of the Global Metals Flows Working Group of UNEP’s International Resource Panel (IRP) and is developed in cooperation with UNEP. It is one of the six that the Center for Innovation of Leiden University has produced in 2014 and it will run on the Coursera platform. The MOOC will also be used in the MSc Industrial Ecology.

Ester van der Voet is the head instructor and she designed the course together with Ruben Huele. Both work at the Industrial Ecology Department of the Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML). Ester van der Voet is also a member of the International Resource Panel.

Last Modified: 13-10-2014