The expansion and use of innovative environmental technologies are among the most important future factors for increasing resource efficiency and for a transformation to a green economy. Many of these technologies are essentially dependent on the functional use of special raw materials for which a variety of supply risks are already emerging today. These are referred to as critical raw materials. It is therefore foreseeable that efficiency and recycling strategies alone will not be sufficient to decisively reduce their criticality and to ensure a far-reaching expansion of key environmental technologies, not only in industrialised nations such as Germany, but also worldwide.

There is also a need for a forward-looking orientation towards substitution strategies. The German government's Resource Efficiency Programme (ProgRess) identified a considerable need for research in this regard. Measures that strengthen the substitution of rare and strategic metals with raw materials that have a lower environmental impact were considered to be target-oriented.

An important aspect in the project was the investigation of resource efficiency potentials, but also possible additional burdens. For example, wind turbines without rare earths require significantly more copper, which is also associated with considerable environmental impacts. A comparative assessment of technologies is therefore extremely important. The objective of the project was to develop a roadmap for the substitution of critical raw materials in environmental technologies. The roadmap showed which substitution measures can contribute significantly to the future expansion of environmental technologies, even against the background of increasing supply risks in the raw materials sector. In doing so, the long lead times, obstacles and facilitating factors of the developments from the research stage to market maturity and diffusion should be taken into account. The roadmap made an important contribution to the implementation and further development of the national raw materials strategy and the German Resource Efficiency Programme and provided impulses for the national and international political debate. To this end, not only were measures identified, but the responsible actors and instruments were also named and external experts were included in the project.

Work packages

  1. Systematisation and screening: development of a selection methodology for screening environmental technologies
  2. Functional material demand: Estimation of functional material demand for 40 priority environmental technologies
  3. Criticality analysis: Criticality analysis for the selection of 20 priority environmental technologies
  4. Substitution potential screening: screening and in-depth analysis on selected substitutions
  5. Criticality impacts: Multidimensional analysis of criticality impacts
  6. Roadmap: Elaboration of a substitution roadmap