What makes solutions within the manufacturing industry resource efficient?
Conference contribution, 2016
The linear mode of production and consumption has dominated the last century. Raw materials are extracted and assembled into products that are discarded after only a short life. This entails a net flow of material from the earth’s crust into diluted stocks spread over society and in nature. To achieve long term sustainability, a move towards a resource efficient (RE) economy needs to take place.
Such resource efficiency can be achieved in an abundance of ways that relate to production efficiency (e.g. reducing scrap rate), more efficient use of product (e.g. sharing, prolong life, energy efficiency) or closing the loops (reverting material flows back into the product-chain). But, from a life-cycle perspective, how effective are resource efficient solutions in actuality? There is a lack of generic understanding of when a RE solution in fact leads to a net improvement in resource efficiency, and under which conditions (such as product characteristics, enablers etc.) that they are successful.
A related paper presents an analytical framework that aims at analysing and understanding RE solutions. The present work presents a pilot study which, using this framework, systematically analyses a number of different assessment studies (e.g. Life Cycle Assessments, Lice Cycle Costings, Material Flow Analyses) and thus provides an overview and an understanding of which different solutions are suitable under different sets of conditions or product types. The selection of case studies is limited to RE solutions within the manufacturing industry such as remanufacturing of engines, functional sales of washing machines and reuse of electronic equipment.
The study is expected to contribute to a generic understanding of what characterises RE solutions and the trade-offs they bring, thus clarifying what makes different solutions effective and not. Furthermore, this knowledge can be utilised as guidelines when planning or designing new solutions to be RE.