Monday, 12 October 2015

SusChem Position Paper on the Circular Economy

Following approval by the SusChem board, the European Technology Platform for Sustainable Chemistry has published a position paper on the Circular Economy. You can download the paper here. Since its inception in 2004 SusChem has inspired numerous research and innovation activities that address major European societal issues. SusChem’s solutions are based on sustainable enabling technologies developed by the chemical industry and its partners in academia, research and technology organisations, and other industrial players from a wide variety of different value-chains and sectors. Many of these technologies are essential to the implementation of a sustainable circular economy.

The position paper develops SusChem’s vision for a functioning circular economy in Europe (and globally) and provides some concrete examples of the high impact contributions that the platform and its partners can make to achieve this essential objective.

The paper has three main messages.

A sustainability-based approach is needed
The integration of all aspects of sustainability is essential to the development of a circular economy in order to effectively ensure a positive impact on society while minimising environmental impact and maintaining economic growth.

Technology development is required for a sustainable circular economy
A circular economy cannot be achieved only through implementation of new regulations, services and business models.  Advanced technologies are essential to enable a better use of existing resources along the whole life cycle to develop new production and recycling paths – and the expertise of the chemical industry as a material supplier is highly valuable and important here. In particular SusChem believes that the principle technology developments should take place in the following three areas:
  • Utilisation of sustainable alternative feedstock including  secondary raw materials, ligno-cellulosic biomass, waste or CO2 from industrial flue gases. 
  • Design of sustainable materials enabling eco design of ‘products’ that are easy to recycle while maintaining or improving performance.
  • Improved efficiency for production processes to maximise the use of all resources entering the system including primary and secondary raw materials, water, and energy.
These technologies are more fully described in the SusChem’s 2015 Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda (SIRA) and should be supported through the appropriate European funding instruments.

Coherence and stability over time for the policy framework is critical for European leadership
To contribute fully to a sustainable economy, the circular economy policy should be developed in coordination with other related policies such as the Energy Union Package. Policy coherence, as well as policy stability over time, is essential to establish a regulatory framework that enables investment in sustainable, resource efficient and innovative technologies in Europe and ensures European leadership in sustainable/clean technologies.

Case studies
The SusChem position paper concludes with  five case studies that describe a selection of potential contributions by SusChem technology solutions to the circular economy. Each case study describes the potential contribution of the technology to the circular economy, the technology development or deployment required, and the non technology barriers and policy framework aspects that require addressing.

The case studies cover:
  • Utilisation of CO2 as an alternative carbon resource 
  • New composite materials
  • New catalysts 
  • Industrial symbiosis 
  • Biorefineries
More information
The full position paper can be downloaded here. If you have any questions about the paper, how you or you organisation could work with SusChem in achieving the circular economy, or would like more information on SusChem activities in general, please contact the SusChem secretariat.

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