Keep a product at its highest value level as long as possible
Countries worldwide have been devoted to protecting the environment in order to leave the next generations a greener future. Echo to this trend, Taiwan authorities have adapted the circuar economy model and initiated the first stage of a ban on single-use plastic straws aiming to eliminate any excessive waste. To keep promoting the circular economy concept, Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) today hosted a 2019 Circular Economy Industry Summit and invited Angelina Prokofyeva, Head of Sustainability of Greater China at global materials manufacturer Covestro to share how the company has adopted a holistic approach and its successful cases so far that aim to close the carbon loop via her keynote speech.
Today’s industries are mostly made up of a linear economy, which is a ‘take, make, dispose’ model of production. The problem is that these linear economies deplete finite resources in order to make products that are simply thrown away, which leads to negative impacts on the environment and human health. Unlike a linear economy, a circular economy is a regenerative system in which resource input and waste, emissions and energy leakage are minimized by slowing, closing and narrowing energy and material loops. For example, once a biological or synthetic material is used by a certain industry, a circular economy will seek to optimize its use with higher quality and greater longevity. When the products made from these synthetic materials have reached the end of their lifecycle, they can be disassembled and their components reused or recycled.
Not only about recycling
However, if we continue to produce as much as we have done in the past and simply attempt to recycle it all, the loop cannot be closed. This is particularly the case in the high-performance plastics industry, where cradle-to-cradle recycling is not currently well developed. In a broader sense, the aim of a circular economy is the improvement of resource efficiency and the prevention of waste creation and misuse of natural resources in order to deliver a low carbon economy.
“As for Covestro, we strive to reduce negative impacts on the environment and meanwhile strengthen value added for the benefit of society”, said Prokofyeva. “We believe in the ‘People, Planet, Profit’ principle for doing business more sustainably and will achieve our purpose of making the world a brighter place.”
CO2 as a raw material
Meanwhile, a circular economy also allows to invest carbon in developing a product and then realizing the potential energy of that product at the end of its life. For instance, due to an innovative technology, Covestro is able to utilize CO2 as feedstock material for the production of polyurethane components. Another special technology (Oxygen Depolarization Cathode, ODC) helps to use less energy in the very energy-intensive production of chlorine which is a crucial basic chemical for the platics industry.
To keep promoting the concept of a circular economy, Covestro believes a more holistic approach should be considered among the industries and end users. “It is important that we keep a product at its highest value level for as long as possible and do not run in circles as fast as possible”, Prokofyeva underscored. “To Covestro, this means that products, applications, production, logistics and processes, as well as innovation, are all sustainable and the whole chain will help close the loop.”
With 2018 sales of EUR 14.6 billion, Covestro is among the world’s largest polymer companies. Its business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. The main segments served are the automotive, construction, wood processing and furniture, and electrical and electronics industries. Other sectors include sports and leisure, cosmetics, health and the chemical industry itself. Covestro has 30 production sites worldwide and employs approximately 16,800 people (calculated as full-time equivalents) at the end of 2018.
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