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UNFC specifications on use of resources from waste to support the circular economy

Energy and mineral value chains usually involve the generation of large quantities of residues. These residues often end up as wastes and, if not properly managed threaten not only the environment but also the health and safety of the local populations. With energy and mineral production increasingly coming from lower grade sources, the quantities of residues and wastes are also growing exponentially, thus exacerbating the problem. 

However, these residues are often important sources of secondary resources or the residues themselves could be used for many productive purposes. In the past, there were technological challenges for the utilization of wastes but this is being addressed today through innovative approaches. The activities that produce valuable secondary raw materials and energy required for society could also be economically and environmentally attractive. Use of secondary resources importantly helps to conserve non-renewable primary resources for the benefit of future generations. This activity helps to meet the target of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12 “Responsible Production and Consumption” on waste minimization through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse. 

The United Nations Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC), a universal standard for the management of all energy and raw material resources, now incorporates Anthropogenic Resource Specifications which will support the circular economy. The specifications for the recovery of value from residues or wastes generated by human activities (“Anthropogenic Resources”) were endorsed by UNECE’s Committee on Sustainable Energy at its 27th session, 26-27 September, in Geneva.  

“Currently no classification exists for the productive management of industrial residues such as mining wastes and tailings”, observed Ulrich Kral, Technische Universität Wien and Chair of the Anthropogenic Resources Working Group of the UNECE Expert Group on Resource Classification (EGRC). “The UNFC Anthropogenic Resource Specifications provide a universal framework to manage and communicate the recovery of secondary resources according to the project maturity principles of UNFC”.

“The finalization of the UNFC Anthropogenic Resource Specifications marks another milestone for UNFC”, said Scott Foster, Director, Sustainable Energy Division, UNECE. “Extending UNFC’s application to secondary resources will help ensure a global approach to dealing with the growing challenge of wastes in the energy and mineral industries and support embedding the principles of the Circular Economy in their operations and practices”

The UNFC Specifications for Anthropogenic Resources were developed by a team of international experts under the auspices of the UNECE EGRC and with the support of the pan-European expert network on “Mining the European Anthroposphere” (MINEA).

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