Circular Metals

Circular Metals


Live now! The Big Repair Project!


Metallic materials are the backbone of manufacturing and the fuel for economic growth. The UK metals industry comprises 11,100 companies, employs 230,000 people, directly contributes £10.7 billion to UK GDP. As a foundation industry, it underpins the competitive position of every industrial sector, including aerospace, automotive, construction, electronics, defence and general engineering.

Transformation of the metals industry from the current largely linear economy to a circular economy plays a critical role in delivering the government’s industrial strategy for clean growth, doubling of resource productivity and reaching net zero carbon emissions in 2050. The UKRI Interdisciplinary Centre for Circular Metals will accelerate this transformation. The centre comprises a truly interdisciplinary academic team with a wide range of academic expertise and a strong industrial consortium involving the full metals supply chain. As an integral part of the national circular economy community, the project ambition is to make the UK the first country in the world to realise a full circular economy of metals by 2050.

Led by Professor Zhongyun Fan (Brunel University London), the Centre has four interconnected dimensions: economical, environmental, technological and societal, led by researchers at Brunel, UCL and Warwick.

The Institute of Making, under the leadership of Professor Mark Miodownik, will conduct research on the societal aspects of metals within a circular economy, specifically looking at consumer engagement with repair and recycling. Since the middle of the 20th century, we have seen a dramatic decline in the repair and recycling of household objects. Our research will:

  • Collect and analyse public attitudes and behaviours to reuse, repair and recycling of household goods containing stocks of steel and aluminium using a citizen science approach.
  • Analyse the data on reuse, repair and recycling to calculate impact on steel and aluminium circularity as well as net zero targets. 
  • Work with partners and stakeholders to formulate policy recommendations to increase these behaviours. 
  • Lead the public engagement on Materials & Society for the Centre and contribute to the work by the National Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Hub (CE-Hub) and other circular economy centres.

The research will become public champions for circular metals through maintaining a strong media and online presence, as well as having an educational and policy outlook. It will inform public debate and supply new data and insights into public discourse on the vital role of metals in society. The research will not just lead to systems change, but a fundamental change of public attitudes to tackling waste and the resulting environmental pollution. This will be achieved through the creation of media programmes, articles, research papers, public events, citizen science, teaching resources and policy interventions.

Researcher Profiles

Danielle Purkiss - Research Associate

Danielle is an Architect interested in material culture, technology and circular economy design. She is a Research Associate on our UKRI Circular Metals and UKRI Compostable Plastics projects where she leads Citizen Science and material systems design research. Prior to this Danielle was a Research Associate on our previous UKRI Plastics Research and Innovation Fund project - Designing out Plastic Waste. She completed her architecture training at UCL Bartlett School of Architecture and London Metropolitan University and has since created several award winning designs across housing, workspace and education sectors. She teaches about circular economy design in the UK and internationally.

Christian Partik - Doctoral Researcher

Christian is a PhD researcher at the Department of Mechanical Engineering and a member of the Circular Metals project team. He has a background in mechanical engineering and a research interest in self-repairing structures that will transform the way materials are used. His research focuses on the implementation of smart features (sensing, actuation, communication) into linkage fabric structures (fabrics consisting of single links that are connected). These fabrics could then self-redistribute forces and loads in their fabric when links are damaged or lost, making them self-repairable. He has a passion for making repair fairer and easier and is interested in revolutionising how we see and use materials in our daily lives.