“Take, make, use, dispose,” the mantra of the current linear materials usage model, is unsustainable because it creates many products that end up in landfills or incinerators, as well as waste streams that pollute our water and air. Because none of Earth’s resources are infinite, and there are only a few sustainable sources of energy, our use of materials resources must be informed by the principles of sustainable development, specifically the twin concepts of "materials efficiency" and the "circular materials economy." Materials efficiency is the degree to which usage of raw and engineered materials, and the processes used to produce them, are implemented in a manner that consumes, incorporates, or wastes less of a given material compared to previous processes. For example, lightweighting of a car through the use of a stronger alloy allows the use of thinner body stock (while affording the same level of safety), and thereby increases the material efficiency of the vehicle. The circular materials economy emphasizes systems intentionally designed to minimize waste and pollution and to account for disposal, recycling, or reuse. Materials scientists and engineers are key enablers in both arenas.
Although the circular materials economy is an attractive concept, is it practical? Might it work for some materials but not others, and why? This symposium will address the circularity challenge by providing an assessment of the current situation, followed by presentation of potential pathways to an improved circular materials economy. This symposium will provide a platform for materials scientists and related interdisciplinary experts from industry, academia, and government to present research on sustainable materials, processing, manufacturing, and end-of-life solutions for the products and commodities that drive our economy and meet the needs of humanity.
A complementary suite of sustainability-focused technical and professional development activities is tentatively planned.