EU-Focused Circular Economy Modelling of Rare Earth Element Waste in Mobile Phone Touch Screens by a System Dynamics Approach

Konyalıoğlu A. K., Zhang N., Bereketli İ.

Circular Economy and Sustainability, 2024 (Scopus) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Publication Date: 2024
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s43615-024-00389-z
  • Journal Name: Circular Economy and Sustainability
  • Journal Indexes: Scopus
  • Keywords: Closed loop supply chain, Rare earth elements, Simulation, Smartphones, System dynamics, Waste management
  • Galatasaray University Affiliated: Yes


This paper aims to construct a system dynamic model elucidating the circular economy of rare earth elements (REE) in smartphones’ touch screens within the European waste supply chain of smartphones. Through extensive research and Monte Carlo simulations, we assess the economic benefits and environmental impacts of REE recycling over a ten-year period. The findings indicate that over the decade of implementing recycling practices, economic benefits surged from 1.1 to 7.8 million USD, accumulating to a total of 38.4 million USD. This progression underscores the role of effective REE waste management policies in facilitating the transition to circular economy, augmenting recycling profit, and fostering sustainable development. Moreover, the economic benefits derived from a robust recycling supply chain in 10 years contribute to sustainable manufacturing through the remanufacturing and reusing of REE in smartphones’ touch screens. We suggest that the incentivizing governmental measures should be encouraged to amplify recycling and reusing rates, while streamlining supply chain to minimize operational and collection costs. Our analysis reveals a significant increase in smartphone production levels in Europe, resulting in accumulated REE waste. However, recycling initiatives have also intensified, leading to a remarkable escalation in recycled REEs from nil to 8,130 tons over the simulation period. This substantial increase in REE recycling has contributed to sustainable manufacturing practices and generated economic benefits totaling 38.4 million USD. Furthermore, our findings highlight the pivotal role of effective recycling policies in fostering the circular economy and reducing environmental impact. Notably, economic gains primarily stem from charges levied by recyclers, emphasizing the importance of a well-functioning recycling supply chain. Monte Carlo simulations demonstrate the sensitivity of economic benefits and recycled REE quantities to variations in smartphone production and recycling rates. While economic benefits exhibit notable constancy with changes in recycling rates, smartphone production influences both recycled REEs and economic gains significantly. Overall, this study underscores the potential of REE recycling in smartphone touch screens to contribute to sustainable resource management and economic development within the European waste supply chain. By focusing on the obtained results, this research provides valuable insights for policymakers and industry stakeholders striving to enhance circular economy practices.