Society’s increasing demand for metals led to the discussion as to whether scarcity of raw materials could lead to supply shortages and to which extend circularity can prevent resource depletion. This study investigates the need for and availability of secondary and primary zinc resources under moderate demand growth. A dynamic MFA model simulates future potentials of 9–14 Mt/a zinc recycling and the necessity of 17–22 Mt/a zinc mining in 2050. The MFA model estimates a cumulative required mine production of 500–560 Mt between 2020 and 2050, which equals less than 1% of the extractable global zinc resources estimated within a geological analysis. With continuous exploration contributing to new discoveries, primary zinc is sufficiently physically available. In contrast, recycling is limited to the amounts of post-consumer waste generation. Recycling capacities need to be extended, collection systems optimized and processing efficiencies increased worldwide to realize the full extent of modelled potentials.

The future availability of zinc: Potential contributions from recycling and necessary ones from mining – ScienceDirect