Iñigo Unamuno Iriondo
Head of Industrial Innovation Projects
At the end of 2019, the European Union launched the so-called Green New Deal as a central strategy approach, which aims at achieving climate neutrality by 2050, intensifying the emission reduction objective by 2030 and advancing towards circular economy, among other commitments. The initial roadmap regarding the strategies and measures that are necessary in order to achieve the objectives established in this deal includes the mobilization of the industry for the sake of a clean and circular economy.
The circularity of material resources shall contribute to increasing material productivity in the industry, by means of the recovery of a larger volume of a variety of different material resources for their use in manufacturing activities. Besides, the new circular economy paradigms shall contribute to reducing significant impacts associated with dumping, CO2 emissions, energy consumption, natural area occupation as well as the prevention of risks to human health and ecosystems.
Nonetheless, the inclusion of secondary raw materials in manufacturing processes is facing the following challenges:
1) Ensuring a higher classification level of the recovered material resources; especially in scenarios where the mixing level of material constituents is highly complex.
2) Increasing the efficiency and productivity of secondary raw material recovery processes.
3) Increasing the quality control of the recovered resources so as to obtain a larger volume of more accurate and reliable data, which generate trust, safety and traceability of information throughout the supply chains.
4) Ecodesigning and manufacturing new products, integrating a larger volume of recovered material resources and extending their lifetime.
5) Creating, at local and global scale, efficient secondary raw material supply chains with sufficiently high quality which stimulate a higher consumption and acceptance thereof, in order to advance towards an effective material closure in any production sector.
Among the various material resources used in the industrial sector, refractories are one of the elements which are of highest priority for strategic sectors such as steelmaking, foundry, the chemical industry or the construction products manufacturing industry.
In my opinion, and in conclusion, the main challenges we will be facing in the coming decade regarding the management of industrial waste will be three: the reduction in waste generation, the increase in reuse, recycling and recovery rate, and the increase in secondary raw material use. Resolutely facing these challenges would imply an improved competitiveness of companies while as the same time a contribution to reducing their environmental impact and to a higher efficiency of processes.
Within the objective of overcoming the foresaid challenges, the LIFE 5REFRACT project has been an example for the implementation of the Circular Economy concept among process industries in Europe.