Saving resources in Europe: What future for the circular economy model?

Have you heard of the Earth Overshoot day? Last year it was 19 August. This day symbolises the milestone date when global population has exhausted the Earth’s natural resources that should have lasted a whole year. This day reminds us that resource scarcity is a growing issue at the global level.

If we keep exploiting our planet’s resources in the same way, scientists have predicted that worldwide demand will triple in less than 35 years’ time. At this rate, who knows when we will be able to celebrate the Earth Overshoot day?

A few years back, the Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe was published. It was the lead European initiative to tackle this challenging issue of resource efficiency. Since then a few additional priorities have been identified in order to turn such roadmap into reality. With landfills at almost every 50km, waste management was logically pushed to the centre of this European initiative.

In 2010, the European Commission’s data revealed that nearly 40% of waste generated by Europeans ended up in landfills. In other words, 40% of the total waste had no chance to become a resource through recycling, energy recovery or composting. This is an urgent call for action.

Is the European Commission’s circular economy going forward?

In 2014, the previous European Commission adopted the Communication “Towards a circular economy: A zero waste programme for Europe” and a number of legislative proposals aiming both at reducing landfilling in Europe and at promoting alternative waste management processes with a strong focus on recycling. While Europe was moving full-speed, the new Commission announced last December that the “Waste Package,” as it is called, would not be part of its 2015 Work Programme .

The news led to much criticism from a number of stakeholders, including the European Parliament, which in turn have strongly advocated for the reintroduction of the package. In January 2015, during an exchange of views with Members of the European Parliament, the European Commission indicated that an improved proposal should be published before the end of 2015. It is rumored that this new proposal will seek more coherence with the concept of circular economy.

Polyurethane waste management: a circular model

Irrespective of regulatory developments, ISOPA is committed to promote waste management and resource efficiency. We believe that by combining recycling, energy and product recovery options, Europe can set a positive trend towards meeting its zero-waste goals.

Over the last decade, polyurethane producers have invested and developed many effective ways to improve polyurethanes’ waste management. Industry has been successfully working towards ensuring that products are produced with a sense of responsibility towards environment. We strive to develop production models that require reduced amount of resources and produce materials which could be re-used or effectively recycled. Our efforts and strong determination have already proved to be working: more than 250,000 tonnes of polyurethane are recycled and recovered every year, and the number is increasing!

Resource efficiency and Energy efficiency: hand in hand thanks to Polyurethanes

Beyond sustainable waste management, polyurethanes contribute to a better use of resources considering the benefits they bring in terms of energy efficiency. Energy is indeed a most precious resource!

Thanks to Polyurethanes’ unique chemical properties, we save energy and resources. For example, polyurethanes help to produce freezers and refrigerators, which over the last 15 years have become 60% more efficient than they used to be. Moreover, improved insulation can significantly reduce energy consumption which would ultimately lead to lower levels of CO2 emissions and creation of different energy-related waste. ISOPA’s passive house is a prime example of how polyurethanes can help save energy in buildings’ applications. Thanks to polyurethanes, the passive house almost does not require external heating or conditioning sources. It proves that effective isolation is one of the most sustainable ways to lower energy consumption and reduce waste of resources!

How can you contribute to the circular economy?

The European economy cannot thrive without a flourishing environment. ISOPA is determined to improve existing practices and to develop new technologies to ensure sustainable circular economy in Europe, from cradle-to-cradle.

We are also looking forward to working with policy makers to ensure that the new circular economy packages reflect challenges and opportunities for all activity sectors in Europe.

Committed to the principles of the circular economy? Visit our website or connect with us on Twitter  to share your own ideas and opinions. The time to engage is now!

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