Into The Circular Economy

Taking The European Chemical Industry

Sustainability has become a vital part of many business strategies across industries, which has prompted growing interest in the circular economy. Accenture recently conducted a study to explore the potential of the circular economy for the European chemical industry.

The advent of the circular economy is likely to lead to significant changes for European chemical companies, along with fundamental challenges. But it could also present a major opportunity for the European chemical industry—and for Europe overall.

What Is A Circular Economy?

A circular economy seeks to replace today’s linear “take-make-dispose” approach to resources, in which materials are made into products, the products are used and then the materials are thrown out. A circular economy aims to continuously keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value. With this model, the materials are constantly cycled back through the value chain for re-use, resulting in less energy and resource consumption.

How Will The Industry Make The Shift?

Two Aspects To Maximize Utility

Circulating molecules

Circulating molecules:

reusing and recycling existing molecules that are tied up in end-consumer products that have reached the end of their lives.

Enabling the circular economy in downstream industries

Enabling the circular economy in downstream industries:

creating products that are more durable, suitable for sharing and energy efficient.

Five Molecule Circulation Loops

Five Molecule Circulation Loops

Five Molecule Circulation Loops

  • Substituting raw materials.
  • Increased re-use of end-user products.
  • Mechanical recycling.
  • Chemical recycling.
  • Energy recovery and carbon utilization.

up to 70%

of the European chemical industry molecules provided to customer industries and end-users can be recirculated using all five loops.

The Way Forward

Creating and operating new circular economy processes requires large amounts of renewable energy and significant investments. However, the benefits to adopting a circular model can curb energy usage for conventional chemicals production. Extensive re-use of molecules can shrink markets for fossil-based feedstock and basic chemicals, and reduced production would drive industry-wide energy savings.

Moving to a circular economy will not happen overnight and will be a very gradual process. In a sense, chemical companies will be able to “bend” the linear “take-make-dispose models”, working on the two ends—raw materials and increased recyclability of end products—and continue moving forward until they have created a circular model.

For more information, download the executive summary: “Taking the European Chemical Industry into the Circular Economy.” To see the full report, contact us.

Download The Executive Summary



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