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Thursday, 28 January 2016

Six Model EU Regions to lead way towards Sustainable Chemical Industry

The European Commission has selected six 'model regions' to lead the way towards a sustainable EU chemical industry. The announcement (on 26 January 2016) of the selection of the six model regions in the field of sustainable chemicals production kicks off the European Sustainable Chemicals Support Service which met for the first time this week. And Cefic and SusChem will be helping to deliver support to the selected regions.

The six 'model demonstrator regions' in Europe are Andalusia (Spain), Groningen-Drenthe (The Netherlands), Kosice (Slovakia), Scotland (United Kingdom), South and Eastern Ireland (Ireland) and Wallonia (Belgium).

The regions have been selected from 28 applicants from EU regions, and will receive advisory support from the 'European Sustainable Chemicals Support Service' (ESCS) – a consortium led by the European Commission and CIRCE (the Research Centre for Energy Resources and Consumption). Cefic and SusChem will work with CIRCE and other partners to provide support to the six selected regions.

The aim of the initiative is to encourage investments in sustainable chemicals production in Europe that will contribute to the development of the circular economy, for example by taking advantage of domestically available feedstock such as biomass, waste or CO2.

Cefic and SusChem have been very supportive of collaboration within and between chemical regions based on concepts such as Industrial Symbiosis. This was demonstrated by Cefic-SusChem participation in the Chemical Regions for Resource Efficiency (R4R) FP7 project and expressed in the SusChem position paper on Circular Economy (see below). Participation in this tender continues and expands this support.

Call background
In a call for the expression of interest in September 2015, the Commission asked for applications from regional organisations interested in developing ambitious strategies to support sustainable chemicals in Europe. The final aim is to attract new investments in industrial projects in the chemicals sector, thereby also contributing to the industry policy objective of raising the GDP share of manufacturing in Europe. The call also intended to lead to further development of coherent policies, such as those related to the circular economy and low carbon economy, industrial symbiosis as well as removing investment bottlenecks.

The applications submitted clearly show the commitment of many regions in Europe to move towards circular economy and low carbon economy models, by using renewable resources for chemicals production. Experiences from the initiative will be shared with other interested European regions, to boost cooperation between the chemicals sector and other sectors, like agriculture, forestry, energy intensive industries, waste management and recycling.

SusChem and the circular economy
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.

In October 2015 SusChem published a position paper on the Circular Economy. You can download the paper here.

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.

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