Proper understanding and evaluation of a metal production process is crucial for its further optimization. Economic evaluation is frequently used to estimate the practicality of a specific process based on the product life cycle assessment. However, it encounters difficulties to identify the importance of materials efficiency coupling with pollution control during evaluation on the effectiveness of process optimization. In this research, a factor defining the material recirculation is introduced to economic evaluation. Typical vanadium oxide production processes in China were evaluated by the economic evaluation model considering the whole production process, through defining a range of parameters, i.e., the materials cost, water cost, energy cost, waste treatment cost and auxiliary cost. Three V2O5 production processes are analyzed and compared to each other. The production process of high purity V2O5 has the best cost-effective products with high purity, the simplest production, the highest materials efficiency and the lowest cost for waste treatment. It is noticed that materials efficiency tends to be inversely proportional to waste treatment cost. Under comprehensive environmental assessment, proper pollutant control improves material recirculation percentage and reduces the expense for waste treatment which is an important aspect of economic evaluation. With this research, an optimization scheme is illustrated for the economic evaluation of typical metal production process which may provide guidance to industrial factories to optimize relevant production processes. (C) 2020 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.