Analysis of the distribution of selected heavy metals due to waste management measures in order to achieve a material flow oriented waste industry

Project description

For the production of industry and consumer goods large amounts of resources are still necessary although only limited resources are available. After their use these goods become waste. Some of these wastes contain critical concentrations of heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium and lead. These heavy metals can either be concentrated during waste treatment (in order to reuse the metals or for a proper disposal) or transferred into new products; this means they are distributed diffusely in the environment. This may occur for example within the energetic reuse of wastes in industrial thermal processes. Due to the contamination of wastes with heavy metals their reuse as a material is in many cases difficult and requires complex treatment steps.

Up to now the knowledge about the material household and the material flows of mercury, lead and cadmium associated with waste management measures is neither sufficient for assessing the waste industry with respect to sustainability nor for working out recommendations for a material flow oriented waste industry.

Aim of the project, which will be performed for several years, is to analyse presently applied waste management measures for mercury, lead and cadmium containing production wastes and goods by using material flow analyses and to assess these measures with respect to sustainability criteria. The analyses will concentrate on two paths: on one hand a balance of the mentioned heavy metals will be compiled for Germany; on the other hand types of wastes will be identified which contain these heavy metals in concentrations which seem to be ecologically relevant.

In a first step the following work will be done:

  • Analysis of the availability of data which are necessary to compile a material balance for selected heavy metals for Germany
  • Building up of a database for concentrations of selected heavy metals in raw materials, intermediate products, goods and wastes
  • Identification of raw materials, intermediate products, goods and wastes which contain relevant concentrations of heavy metals and which will be further analysed by material flow balances.


Journal Articles
Achternbosch, M.; Kupsch, C.; Sardemann, G.; Bräutigam, K. R.
Cadmium flows caused by the worldwide production of primary zinc metal
2009. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 13, 438–54. doi:10.1111/j.1530-9290.2009.00128.x
Journal Articles
Braeutigam, K. R.; Achternbosch, M.; Kupsch, C.; Sardemann, G.
Management of cadmium flows under the aspect of establishing closed loops
2008. Journal of Environmental Engineering and Management, 18, 25–32 
Journal Articles
Bräutigam, K.-R.; Achternbosch, M.; Kupsch, C.; Sardemann, G.
ITAS-Projekt zu Ressourcen- und Abfallmanagement von Cadmium in Deutschland legt Abschlussbericht vor
2007. Technikfolgenabschätzung, Theorie und Praxis, 16 (2), 83–88. doi:10.14512/tatup.16.2.83
Journal Articles
Kopfmüller, J.; Sardemann, G.; Achternbosch, M.; Kupsch, C.; Bräutigam, K. R.; Hartlieb, N.
Ressourcen- und Abfallmanagement für eine nachhaltige Entwicklung dargestellt am Beispiel von Cadmium
2005. Österreichische Wasser- und Abfallwirtschaft, 57, 119–28 
Conference Papers
Bräutigam, K.-R.; Achternbosch, M.; Hartlieb, N.; Kupsch, C.; Sardemann, G.
Material-flow-analysis of Cadmium giving special consideration to waste arising and waste management
2005. Proceedings of the 20th International Conference on Solid Waste Technology and Management. Philadelphia, USA, 03. - 06.04.2005, CD-ROM 


Dipl.-Phys. Klaus-Rainer Bräutigam
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe