Recycling – the importance of understanding the complexity of the issue

N. Pajunen*, L. Rintala, J. Aromaa, K. Heiskanen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Abstract: Natural resources and raw materials such as metals and minerals are often taken for granted in today’s society. Without them, the offerings of an enormous variety of modern conveniences, including computers and mobile phones, would not be possible. The production of these everyday items depends on a secure, sustainable, and reliable supply of critical raw materials. In addition, product development also requires new hybrid materials when targeting lightweight structures, etc. However, the mandatory recyclability of new products or materials is not obligatory or even prevailing practice in present manufacturing business. Therefore, the main research question in this article is: “how to solve the challenge of recycling in industrial system?” In this article, a comprehensive approach to recycling based on the findings of research projects is presented. Simplified, this involves moving the challenge from the end of the product’s life cycle to the beginning, to the design or even to material development phases. Life cycle and system thinking and material know-how in the design phase are found to be essential elements of a new approach to recycling. This approach stems from the material development and market economy perspectives. Furthermore, the vulnerability of the industrial system to create uncertainty to recycling is also demonstrated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-106
Number of pages14
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Decision-making
  • life cycle thinking in design and development processes
  • material efficiency
  • recycling
  • saving primary raw material
  • supply chain management


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