In an article published on March 16, 2017 The European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) informed about a new report by consulting company Accenture exploring the opportunities of the circular economy for the European chemical industry. The report explains that “the production of chemical products requires modifications of molecular bonds.” Such modifications change “the nature of the product itself” and are “challenging and energy intensive.” Accenture describes five loops for an economy where molecules circulate: 1) Renewable raw materials, 2) product reuse, 3) mechanical recycling, 4) chemical recycling, and 5) energy recovery and carbon utilization. The company estimates that “up to 60 percent of the molecules provided by the European chemical industry to customer industries and end-users can be re-circulated if utilization of all five loops is maximized.” Accenture notes that the chemical industry would need “to make significant investments in creating and operating new circular economy processes.” The growth potential for chemical products in a circular economy is estimated to be up to 26% and “chemicals could help reduce overall European energy consumption by up to 37%,” Accenture states. The company advises the chemical industry to gradually “bend” the linear ‘take-make-dispose’ model (i.e. substitute fossil raw materials and increase recyclability of end products) until a circular model is created. Accenture estimates that building the described chemical circulating loops would take 35 to 60 years, assuming that the EU chemical industry invests 20% of its capital spending in circular economy projects.
Cefic (March 16, 2017). “Circular economy: New Accenture study shows opportunities for EU chemicals.”
Accenture (2017). “Taking the European chemical industry into the circular economy.” (executive summary; pdf)