Some 13 million tonnes of materials, worth around £4 billion per year, could be recycled, reused or remanufactured from manufacturing, pharmaceutical and chemical and food and beverage sectors in the UK alone, according to a new report from environmental services firm, Veolia.
The research highlights the new business models needed to move three sectors towards a more circular economy and meet resource and waste challenges between now and 2050.
According to the authors, new business models and operations can be reengineered and redesigned by 2050 so that products and manufacturing processes are completed by closing the loop. By generating energy from renewable sources and no longer treating water as a cheap commodity, but a valuable resource, businesses will become more self-sufficient.
Manufacturing businesses could benefit from £2.8 billion of hidden value in unutilised waste streams by generating, using and recovering energy and water resources and being closer to raw materials to secure supply chains with.
According to the report, by 2050, waste materials will be turned into tradable commodities, potentially enabling 100% recovery rates. Nanotechnology and 3D printing were also forecast to be embedded into supply chains, enabling more flexibility with production and more efficient use of resources.
“Meeting humanity’s rapidly growing consumption needs, with finite resources on a planet that is already under stress, requires more than greater resource efficiency,” commented one of the report’s authors and Reader in Environmental Technology, Imperial College London, Dr Nick Voulvoulis,
“With three billion new middle class consumers anticipated by 2030, new business models must be explored if we are to continue to thrive,” he added.
Pharmaceutical and Chemical Sector
Businesses in the pharmaceutical and chemical sector were reported to have around £800 million of hidden value in unutilised resources.
To unlock that value the report said that designing efficiency into products at a concept stage and new dynamics, including new financial models, could enable medicines to be produced more efficiently.
A move to individually treating patients rather than illnesses was also said to be becoming possible, whilst 3D printing technology could enable the production of drugs on a mass scale at a local level.
“We’re likely to see greater collaboration between these specialist businesses and also with outside partners. Brands like Google are already moving into this space.” said Dr Linda Hilton, report author and innovation process and business consultant.
Food production cost pressures were forecast to bring about major changes across the food and beverage sector, with companies needing to reimagine the by-products currently thrown away with around £460 million of unutilised resources.
New technology were predicted to enable better use of energy for the sector and help minimise costs. Although what we eat may not change, where it comes from will be radically different, with cultured meats and insects playing a greater role in our diets.
“We’re already growing enough to feed the future world,” explained Dr Steve Evans, report author and director of research at the University of Cambridge. “We just don’t feed people with it. We don’t need to grow more stuff; we just need to stop throwing away the edible stuff that we do grow.”
At a launch event yesterday Estelle Brachlianoff senior executive vice-president, Veolia UK and Ireland, said that that the time to begin the transition is now, and that we already have much of the knowhow to start.
“The £4 billion hidden value of unutilised resources in these industrial sectors is not something we can ignore. Realising this value has a double windfall – it helps businesses manage their resources more efficiently, and generates new revenue streams,” she said.
“Adopting the innovative business models outlined in Imagine 2050 needs to happen now. Long-term planning, minimising waste and more effectively using water, energy and raw materials will help us meet the changing needs of a growing population in a sustainable way,” concluded Brachlianoff.
The report can he downloaded HERE
For more from the report, including how pure platinum can be recycled from pharmaceutical waste, don’t miss the next issue of Waste Management World.
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