Major demands are increasingly imposed on industry to design pro-ducts that are as efficient as possible. REES presents solutions with significant future impact on the life cycle of products and services say Jan-Eric Sundgren, chair of the board.
Industrialized society has long been dominated for the most part by a linear way of production and consumption in which raw materials are used to manufacture materials and goods that are sold, then used and finally discarded as waste. However, most of the resources required for making a product exist on a limited scale. There is thus an urgent need for substantial improvement in resource utilization and performance, to seek better ways of using and reusing products and their components, and to restore more of the material, energy and labour inputs. This means that major demands are increasingly imposed on industry to design products that are as energy saving and resource efficient as possible, not only during their production phase but throughout their whole life cycle.
A circular economy is the logical solution for a resource-constrained world. It’s a place where almost nothing is wasted, where the re-use and remanufacturing of products has become standard practice, and where sustainability is built into the fabric of society. While the concept of a circular economy has been discussed since the mid-1970s, the urgency of changing direction from a linear model to a circular model is now finally very much in focus. For example, the European Commission’s 2015 Circular Economy Action Plan put the circular economy at the core of EU sustainable development policy.
The main objective of the Action Plan is to change the different stages of the life cycle of products and services, namely 1) design, 2) production, 3) consumption, 4) waste management and 5) secondary materials treatment. This ambition is set to be achieved by amending relevant legislation and introducing new legislative initiatives. The transition toward a circular economy will also be a main EU measure to achieve European commitments under UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In November, 2016, the European Commission set out its strategic approach for achieving sustainable development in Europe and around the world; this will entail, for example, mainstreaming the SDGs in the European Policy Framework.
From the manufacturing industry´s perspective, the right business and design model would enable products to stay in the economy many times longer than today, and utilization rates of everything from cars to consumer goods could increase up to ten times using innovative sharing models. To achieve this, products and services need to be designed for resource efficiency building on a life cycle perspective. New methods to reuse, repair, remanufacture and recycle products and their components need to be found in order to re-enter their next use phase.
While there are many actors in Sweden that are active in the broad field of resource efficiency, both in the business and academic sectors, there are very few coherent programs that look upon the issue from a broad perspective using a multidisciplinary approach involving several disciplines and stakeholders. The Mistra REES programme takes this approach, and it is my belief that the programme has great potential for producing results that will make an enormous difference in both the academic and business communities, as well as help politicians to amend current relevant legislation and introduce new smart legislative initiatives.
Chair of the board, Mistra REES