Critical Raw Materials

Critical Raw Materials

Technology is central to a low carbon economy and to a circular built environment; but do you know the materials that are necessary to make solar panels or batteries? Do you know where they come from? Is it safe to use them? Apart from the considerable environmental and social harm, mining, processing and refining of these materials can jeopardize biodiversity as well as human rights. What is more, as countries all over the world are securing supplies for their own use, geopolitical tensions are rising. In this video, David will introduce you to what makes raw materials critical; he will also explain to you how many materials are considered to be critical today, where they are used and where they can be found.

Main Takeaways

  • For the EU, a Critical Raw Material is one with high risk of supply disruption and, at the same time, with high economic importance.
  • EU has a supply dependence on countries like China or the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for a number of critical materials that are essential in the built environment and for technologies indispensable to modern society.
  • Product Life Extension or PLE strategies can slow down the rate of critical material use. Remanufacturing for example is an excellent strategy for transitioning to a circular built environment.

Further Reading/ References

  • Study of the EU’s list of Critical Raw Materials: Final Report (2020). DOWNLOAD REPORT
  • Critical Raw Materials for Strategic Technologies and Sectors in the EU – A Foresight Study (2020). DOWNLOAD REPORT
  • Raw Materials Information System Website
  • Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Website
  • Pattisson, P. (2021, November 8). ‘Like slave and master’: DRC miners toil for 30p an hour to fuel electric carsThe GuardianWebsite
  • Evans, S.,  Plumpton, H. & Peake L. (2021). Critical point: Securing the raw materials needed for the UK’s green transition. London: Green Alliance. DOWNLOAD REPORT

For an overview of materials’ extraction and use in the Dutch construction sector please see also:

  • Veraart, F. (2018). Building Materials and Construction: Sustainability, Dependency and Foreign Suppliers. In Wellbeing, Sustainability and Social Development. Springer, Cham, pp. 417-434.


David Peck
David Peck
Associate Professor

Dr. David Peck is an Associate Professor at TU Delft, researching and teaching in the field of circular design – remanufacturing and critical materials, based in the faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment. He is a founding member of the Circular Built Environment Hub there. He is also an Honorary Associate Professor with University College London – The Bartlett, and an adjunct Professor at MIP Politecnico di Milano, Graduate School of Business. David sits on the executive board of KIC EIT Raw Materials and is TU Delft representative for the EU KIC EIT Raw Materials and represents the university in the programme, along with projects in EU KIC EIT Manufacturing. He leads a number of projects in this important programme that has a focus on critical materials and circular economy, in particular Remanufacturing. 

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Circularity for Educators

The platform is intended to provide with content on either circularity or pedagogy for and about circularity. It is one of the outcomes of the Circular Impulse Initiative (CII), a project intending to enhance the integration of circularity in the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment education. The platform mainly aims to help tutors get better acquainted with circularity in the built environment by providing a series of resources on this subject that they can either view to get better informed or directly share with their students in class or online. A large number of the Faculty's professors and researchers have contributed substantially both in creating a coherent narrative for circularity in the built environment as well as further elaborating on different aspects of it. Besides this one, a new platform for interaction and direct exchange was also established in parallel that we call ‘Educators for Circularity‘. This one offers the opportunity for all of us to meet and share our experiences and learn from one another.

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