Re-thinking how we manufacture industrial products and deal with them at the end of their useful life could provide breakthrough environmental, social and economic beneits, according to new research from the International Resource Panel (IRP).
Value-retention practices such as remanufacturing, refurbishment, repair, and direct re-use could cut industrial waste by between 80 and 99 per cent in some sectors. Greenhouse gas emissions could fall by 79 to 99 per cent across these sectors if value-retention practices were adopted. Embracing a circular economy can lead to new jobs and markets.
If products were remanufactured, comprehensively re-furbished, repaired and directly re-used, the amount of new material needed could be significantly reduced – by 80-98 per cent for re-manufacturing, 82-99 per cent for comprehensive refurbishing, and 94-99 per cent for repair.
The report released at the World Circular Economy Forum called‘ Rede in ing Value–The Manufacturing Revolution. Remanufacturing, Refurbishment, Repair and Direct Reuse’ in the Circular Economy, says the adoption of these “valueretention processes” could also reduce greenhouse gas emissions in some sectors by 79 to 99 per cent.
These sectors examined in the report are automotive parts, heavy-duty ofload machinery (for example, diggers and excavators), and industrial printing equipment. But there is signiicant potential beyond these sectors for further reductions.
Today, two-thirds of us live in cities, draining nature of materials to build homes, schools, hospitals, roads, transport systems and factories. Urbanization, together with a growing middle-class, has increased demand for consumer goods. In the 20th century, we dug up, chopped down, drilled for or harvested 34 times more construction materials, 27 times more ore and minerals, 12 times more fossil fuels and 3.6 times more biomass than in the years before.
Adopting value-retention processes is a win-win situation for governments, industry and customers. Governments would have less waste to deal with, generate green jobs, and stimulate economic growth; industry could lower production cost, avoid resource constraints on business growth, and open new market segments; and customers could beneit from lower prices for refurbished products.
Currently, re-manufacturing accounts for only 2 per cent of production in the United States, and 1.9 per cent in Europe, leaving ample opportunity to develop these markets. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, where pursued strategically and systematically, adoption of value-retention processes can accelerate a country’s move to a circular economy: pro increasing production, without increasing the negative environmental impacts.
Summary of policy recommendations
According to the summary released by the IRP, the increased adoption of value-retention processes (VRPs) can enable substantial environmental beneits and economic opportunities for countries pursuing a transition to circular economy. The recommendations that highlight the key priorities that policymakers from every country should incorporate into a broader circular economy strategy are listed below.
1. Eliminate regulatory barriers that impede and/or prohibit the movement of inished VRP products within and between countries.
2. Eliminate regulatory barriers that interfere with the movement of cores1 within and between countries and ensure that cores are as far as possible considered as ‘non-waste’. This effort must be balanced with equally important measures to prevent dumping (e.g. e-waste) that may occur under the guise of VRPs.
3. Accept and align VRP definitions across different countries, particularly within trade policies, trade agreements, and between trade partners.
4. Adopt the definitions of each class of VRP and ensure alignment of these definitions within related national waste hierarchy, waste management, and other diversion policy language.
5. Expand existing 3R’s approaches to integrate VRPs alongside traditional recycling policies, and position VRPs as gateway activities to improved recycling.
6. Engagewithstakeholders (producers, distributors, sellers, customers, collectors, policymakers, political leaders, research and education institutions, etc.) to communicate and ensure clear understanding of these VRP deinitions and the opportunities inherent to expanded adoption of VRPs.
7. Establish clear standards and guidelines for each class of VRP, which are accepted by industry and government, and which can be used to effectively differentiate VRPs and VRP products from traditionally manufactured options.
8. Establish review and compliance mechanisms for defined VRP standards and deinitions to prevent misuse of VRP product labeling in the market.
9. Enforce VRP standards and guidelines with domestic VRP producers to ensure that practice in the market reflects accepted deinitions and expectations.
10. Align the regulatory treatment of validated remanufactured products with the treatment of OEM New products in both domestic and trade policies. Validated remanufactured products meet or exceed the quality and performance speciications of OEM New products and should thus be treated equally.
11. Lead-by-example by adopting VRP-friendly public procurement practices and policies to facilitate awareness, adoption, and stimulation of domestic demand for VRP products.
12. Invest in accelerated VRP adoption and capacity by providing funding to VRP producers for R&D, capital acquisitions and workforce training.
13. Implement customer market education and awareness campaigns to encourage the acceptance of VRP products and to strengthen the business-case for VRP producers.
14. Encourage participation in circular economy and VRPs by investing in accessible and efficient end-of-use (EOU) product collection programs and infrastructure and restricting options for EOU products to be disposed into the environment (e.g. landill bans).