Chemistry for a Circular Economy

Chemistry for a Circular Economy


Avoiding waste and reusing valuable resources is important for a sustainable future—and the chemical industry is no exception. Industry and consumers need to shift towards the concept of a circular economy, which aims to reuse, repair, refurbish, or recycle products and resources wherever possible.

Klaus Kümmerer, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany, and International Sustainable Chemistry Collaborative Centre (ISC3), Bonn, Germany, and colleagues have proposed a set of 15 rules for the integration of chemistry into a circular economy. The team, for example, points out that the complexity of materials and the amount of additives need to be reduced to allow for better recycling. Products need to be designed in a way that allows the simple separation of the materials contained in them. Resources that are limited need to be recovered efficiently and reused where possible.

The team also calls for producers to take ownership of a product’s entire lifecycle and for consumers to switch from buying and owning products to renting and sharing. Society and industry need to invest in innovation not only for production, but also for recycling technologies. According to the researchers, the optimal use of chemistry for a circular economy will require changes in education, research, engineering, and in product design.



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