Making Manufacturing Sustainable by Design
* WEF White Paper / Report: Making Manufacturing Sustainable by Design. World Economic Forum, 2019
"Reuse, remanufacturing and recycling – a hidden pathway to a more circular economy
Although more than 50% of the world’s total energy is consumed by manufacturing-related activities, advanced manufacturing technologies offer companies dramatic opportunities to boost productivity and competitiveness while simultaneously reducing the environmental impact of manufacturing.
Digital infrastructures enabling efficient manufacturing, longer product life and practical resource recovery are the backbone of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. A perfect example is the use of new technologies to allow design processes for reuse, remanufacturing and recycling (“Re-X”) to complement longer product lifetimes. Advanced manufacturing technologies can support Re-X; for instance, additive engineering is being applied to engine and turbine remanufacture, and robotic disassembly to components such as automotive transmission control systems and telecom equipment.
Remanufactured products can save up to 98% of CO2 emissions compared to equivalent new products, and significantly support our vision of a zero-waste stream. Encouragingly, as a business, remanufacturing already represents a €30 billion market in Europe. Yet in the sectors surveyed, remanufacturing represents approximately 2% (by value) of the manufacturing equivalent. It is probably significantly higher than 2% in the defence sector, which, for reasons of security, is excluded in many analyses. The 2% estimate has been confirmed by a similar earlier study in the USA. Almost all remanufacturing activity is within the business-to-business (B2B) sector, which raises the question of whether the sector can be expanded both within the B2B sector and in the business-to-consumer (B2C) sector. The challenge perhaps is how to imitate the effort made since the 1980s to increase the rate of some specific material recycling from less than 5% to something closer to 50% today, which required developments in technology, education and policy. There are numerous technical challenges to increasing the level of Re-X associated with advanced manufacturing. Current products and manufacturing processes are generally not designed with any Re-X in mind. Furthermore, at product end-of-life, there is a lack of reliable tools to assess the product condition and the potential for Re-X. From a starting point of less than 2%, it may be possible to make better use of product value retention through reuse, remanufacturing and material recycling a more integral aspect of the economic model. The current paper focuses on the education and policy aspects of making Re-X an integral part of product design, manufacturing processes and consumer culture. With global temperatures remaining on course to likely exceed the catastrophic 2ºC increase, action by the manufacturing sector remains too slow. If the remanufacturing opportunity were seized by companies and policy-makers, the manufacturing sector would contribute dramatically to the reduction of CO2 emissions. A key enabler will be a change in thinking via education, and encouragement of Re-X by policy.
To seize the potential of new technologies and accelerate the sustainability agenda, the World Economic Forum Global Future Council on Advanced Manufacturing and Production (GFC) identified a series of existing programmes that could be accelerated, and developed a set of recommendations to help remove existing constraints and provide new incentives to allow remanufacturing, reuse and recycling to take off."