Transition Into A Circular Economy
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‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ is a phrase that we’re familiar with. This is a simple way to explain the concepts of sustainability, which is increasingly becoming a focus of many organisations. From small enterprises to large corporations, the positive benefits of adopting sustainable principles make it difficult to ignore.

Sustainability focuses on using fewer resources in more efficient ways. It is about reducing our impact on the environment and costs of production, without compromising on productivity or quality standards.

REDUCE

The sustainable process begins with a reduction in the number of raw materials and resources being used. The emphasis is on sourcing secondary raw materials (those which have been previously used in another process), along with scaling back on unnecessary components, which has been increasingly evident in packaging over the last decade. When there is no other option but to use raw material, another option is to off-setting their use in other environmentally beneficial ways. The replanting of trees in woodlands and forests where trees are felled is a common example.

A reduction in energy, raw materials and water can also be achieved through accurate monitoring of processes. With constant data on the flow rates through a process, it becomes possible to make adjustments that ensure that everything is operating at optimum levels. Data driven process management can also ensure that abnormalities in the flow rate are quickly recognised, so action can be taken to identify the cause and rectify the problem. This reduces the risk of wasted batches.

Advances in technology have certainly increased the available options for monitoring and relatively low tech devices, such as ultrasonic flow meters have been used to accurately monitor flow rates in liquid and gas processes for many decades. These devices are clamped onto the outside of existing pipework, so are easily retro fitted.

Ultrasonic flow meters are calibrated specifically for the process and transmit and receive ultrasonic signals as an effective means of flow measurement. They have been instrumental in reducing waste, as well as supporting quality control and process management.

REUSE

Even with efforts to optimise processes, most industries are left with a percentage of waste. Rather than sending to landfill or polluting the environment, it is often possible to find an alternative use for this waste. Wherever possible, it can be cost effective to see waste as a potential resource, either to support your own, or another organisation’s processes.

RECYCLE

When a resource has no reuse value, the next step is to consider how it could be refashioned into another product. There is likely to be a cost associated with transforming something from its current form into a new object, but this can be lower than the costs associated with safe, compliant disposal.

EU: Towards a Circular Economy

In December 2015, the European Commission released a package to support the EUs transition into a circular economy. This approach is seen as the only viable way to retain and build on existing productivity levels for economic stability, whilst also protecting the environment for future generations.

A circular economy focuses on all aspects of the supply chain, production, consumption, waste management and back around into secondary raw materials. In finding innovative ways to reduce, reuse and recycle, we can increase the value of products and materials, reduce the use of resources, minimise waste and as secondary raw materials and recycled goods are lower cost than raw materials, it is also a cost effective solution that can help companies to remain competitive.

Consumer Demands

In order to fully embrace the principles we need innovative ideas, shared knowledge, commercially viable management solutions in product design and production processes. As consumer awareness of environmental issues continues to grow, the demands of consumers will also play a significant role in facilitating change.

The ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ idea allows organisations to build up resilience and the ability to adapt to what is currently an uncertain future. In certain regions of Europe we are already experiencing water shortages and an increased risk of energy shortages, so sustainable principles aren’t a concept for the future, they are essential for maintaining operations now.

If you are open to adopting sustainable principles in your organisation, you can get further support and information from EPSRC Centre for Industrial Sustainability and in the EU ‘Towards a Circular Economy’ document. For further information on ultrasonic flow meters and their applications visit Micronics Ltd.


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