By Jörn Kassow and Eun Kyung Lee

Germany’s increasing shortage of natural resources and the corresponding mounting cost of extracting raw materials signals the need for alternative and innovative ways of collecting and recycling secondary raw materials.

One promising method of securing potential secondary raw materials is “urban mining”, which aims primarily at reclaiming raw materials in urban areas through the reuse of the materials and resources contained in disused products and buildings. Countries with a high demand for resources, but with limited natural resources of their own, can potentially benefit from urban mining.

The German Federal Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt) recently published a comprehensive briefing titled “Urban Mining. The briefing highlights the fact that while Germany is a large consumer of raw materials, it is also heavily dependent on imports of major industrial materials, a situation that generates economic and/or political dependencies, strong price fluctuations, and questionable environmental and social standards (such as inhumane mining conditions).