This is a post prepared by the researcher Elza Bontempi, an Engineer with Ph.D in Materials from Engineering, from the INSTM and Chemistry for Technologies Laboratory, University of Brescia. Her doctoral studies were mainly focused on thin films characterization using advanced X-Ray scattering techniques, in collaboration with CNRS of Grenoble (France). In 2000 she obtained a permanent position at the University of Brescia (Italy), where from 2011 is Full Professor in Fundamental Chemistry for Technologies. Currently, her research activity is focused on the development of eco-materials, with great attention to their sustainability evaluation. She was the scientific responsible of the team that in 2016 won the first prize of the European Business Ideas Competition for Innovation in Raw Materials.You can find more about her work at http://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/pdf/383na2_en.pdf
Enjoy her post on how to evaluate materials substitution sustainability and download the relevant paper for free until the end of July 2017.
“Unsustainable use of resources can produce environmental damages and risks associated to materials depletion. On the contrary, the implementation of the circular economy, with great attention to recovery principles and with efficient resource use results in optimal closed-loop networks.
Despite that the resource depletion problem affects the European society, insufficient measures to preserve natural resources are proposed by recent developed policies. In particular few attentions are directed to wastes and by-products recovery strategies and incentives. More legislative efforts must be devoted to promote raw materials substitution and support industries that are working in this direction, to achieve a circular Europe.
For this aim, new and simplified evaluation instruments can be proposed.
To evaluate the sustainability of a material, LCA is the main used method. However, it can sometimes results a slow and expensive procedure (for example for industries). Furthermore a full life cycle analysis can not always be necessary. Indeed, in some cases, as for example to evaluate the possibility of a raw material substitution, the analysis can end at intermediate stages.
In this context, a simplified approach to quantify the environmental sustainability of a raw material substitution is proposed.
It is based on the use of a single index (SUB-RAW index) to compare two materials and evaluate the best solution, in terms of sustainability. This index is calculated tacking into account embodied energy (EE) and CO2 footprint (CF) of the two selected materials, which are tabulated data for all materials.
The materials production from ores and feedstock needs energy. It is defined the “embodied energy” and includes all energies (direct and indirect) consumed during the production of 1 kg of a specific material. The CO2 footprint corresponds to the equivalent mass of greenhouse gases (kg CO2 equivalent), produced and released into the atmosphere as a consequence of the production of 1 kg of the material. The embodied energy accounts for the resources and the carbon footprint for the emissions, involved in a material production.
The SUB-RAW index is “material” focalized and it is introduced mainly to take into account the industrial and political need to simply evaluate the benefits, that can be obtained by changing a raw materials, in a process. It can be used also to design a material, in order to obtain a more sustainable substitute to natural resources.
In the context of waste and by-product reuse, it is possible to revise the material life cycle, re-considering landfilling and incineration options. In the following Figure the same life-cycle is represented, but the improvement of the steps causing materials loss are proposed. Indeed, recycle and reuse options are the new proposed visions concerning the product discard.
In particular, landfilling must be avoided, reconsidering the materials properties and the advantages that can be obtained, if waste are reused.
The paper is freely available till to end of July 2017 at the following web-site:
Antonis Mavropoulos, , 1
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