The European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) published The Chemical Industry in Europe: Towards Sustainability on May 8. In the report, Cefic stresses the importance of applying sustainable chemistry to the entire product life cycle, beginning with consideration of raw material sourcing impacts, and including manufacturing, packaging, transport and distribution, sales and use, and post-use recovery or disposal. Towards Sustainability asserts that chemistry innovation is a catalyst for sustainable innovation in up- and downstream industries including consumer product sectors. In addition, the authors argue that “Industry’s ongoing focus on using renewable raw materials is helping identify new ways of protecting the environment.”
Towards Sustainability details chemical industry initiatives to reduce waste, drive down emissions, conserve resources, and improve energy efficiency. Major reductions in emissions purportedly have been achieved through optimizing production processes and implementing improved emission control technologies. Industry initiatives promote energy efficiency through the value chain. Many companies have applied new technologies and processes to use fewer raw materials and to reuse or recycle products in a closed loop system. In addition, reducing the amount of material in products without performance loss, down-gauging, has helped industry optimize resources. Also, partnerships throughout industry have turned waste into resources. According to the report, successes include:
- an International Association for Soaps sustainability project which reduced water use during manufacture, emissions, packaging;
- detergent manufacturers reduced the impact of shipping by reducing chemicals, packaging and energy used in product manufacturing;
- excess heat and CO2 from fertilizer manufactures pumped to local greenhouses;
- glucose-containing effluent generated by a one producer is used by a nearby chemical complex to maintain bacteria levels in its biotreatment plant; and
- a new abatement system at an ink manufacturer reduced emissions from the stream by 98 percent.
The industry has also published technical information on abatement and recovery options for solvent emissions.
Featured in the report is a case study on the relationship between new chemical industry products and development of a sustainable construction sector. For example, Cefic explains, plastic insulating materials save many times the amount of energy used in production. The materials are stable and durable, and unaffected by moisture, rotting, or mold. And plastic materials are easily and completely recyclable or recoverable.
Towards Sustainability stresses the importance of sustainability to corporate viability. The authors quote securities analyst statements, such as
“Investors are beginning to acknowledge the impact of sustainability topics on a company’s financial valuation. By adopting effective product life cycle assessment strategies chemical companies can realign their portfolios towards sustainable innovation and at the same time provide financial investors with increased transparency about their commitment to sustainability.” Andrea Ricci , Equity Analyst -Sustainable Asset Management
The report also highlights Cefic members’ efforts to enhance chemicals management throughout the supply chain. Activities include:
- an effort in the polyvinyl chloride industry to improve behavioral safety;
- outreach by the solvents sector on safe working practices;
- safe handling cyanides through the entire value chain; and
- best practices outreach by the formaldehyde industry.
Towards Sustainability also reports that industry is working with academia, regulators and NGOs to identify alternatives to the use of animal testing. Cefic is a founding member of the European Platform for Alternatives to Animal Testing which focuses on meeting safety requirements while also reducing the use of and replacing animal testing.
Towards Sustainability can be downloaded from Cefic’s website.