European Technology Platform For SUSTAINABLE CHEMISTRY


Raw Materials

The challenge

Our modern society is dependant on a range of raw materials, including industrial minerals and metals used in high technology applications that support our lifestyle and infrastructures. But many of these raw materials are not easily available or only found in areas geographically remote from Europe. All are an essentially finite resource: we only have one planet to live on.

With increasing world population, the growth of urbanisation and the industrialisation of emerging economies the availability of some raw materials is becoming critical. This can have both economic and social impacts on our society as the supply of raw materials dwindles and certain technologies are no longer viable. In addition the extraction and processing of some raw materials has significant environmental impact.

Add to the mix geopolitical uncertainties and it is clear that Europe needs to work to secure its supply of non-energy, non-agricultural raw materials to maintain manufacturing industries and support the necessary development of renewable energy technologies in a sustainable way. This will also have a positive impact on job creation in Europe.

Innovation for solutions

Four sustainable solution strategies can contribute to improving the future security of supply for these raw materials. The activities are collectively known as the ‘4Rs’:

  • Reduce – use less of the material to deliver the same product effect
  • Reuse – enable the recovery of a material to deliver the same effect repeatedly
  • Recycle – enable the recovery if a material to be reprocessed with no loss in value
  • Replace – substitute with a material, process, technology or business model that delivers the same (or better) effect

Any new solution should also reduce the overall environmental impact and be safe to users and consumers.

All these solutions will require sustainable chemistry to achieve them and will contribute to the medium to long term security of supply for raw materials in Europe. They will also boost resource efficiency and develop new business areas such as advanced recycling processes.

The chemical industry is developing new technologies for more efficient extraction of raw materials and works for the most efficient use and recycling of materials. It will also develop substitute materials and alternative technologies for its own and other industrial sectors.

To successfully tackle this challenge calls for a cross-sector approach to ensure maximum use of available resources. The challenge incorporates new design, new business models and a collaborative approach.

What is SusChem doing?

SusChem is part of the consortium developing a proposal for a European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on ‘Raw Materials for a Modern Society’. The EIP will support the development of innovative technologies, possible regulatory measures and standardisation and public procurement initiatives. In particular SusChem is leading development of the work on substitution of raw materials and has a clear interest in the extraction and recycling activities.

SusChem is also a member of the Alliance 4 Materials (A4M) organisation that brings together a number of European Technology Platforms with a strong materials agenda to collaborate and coordinate activities.

More information

For more information on the challenges and innovative solutions in this priority take a look at Cefics ‘Tomorrow starts with chemistry’ brochure.

If you would like to get involved, or would like more information on Working Group membership and activities in this area, get in contact via the ‘Join a Working Group’ page.