Chemistry enables the circular economy and bioeconomy
The basic principle of the circular economy is to keep products, components, and materials in the society at their highest utility and value for as long as possible: “One man's trash is another man's treasure”. The circular economy is a path to a more sustainable development and a great economical opportunity that also renews business models.
The chemical industry of Finland is one of the forerunners in the circular economy. Industrial symbioses within the sector are in full operation, e.g. in the towns of Kokkola and Porvoo, and side and waste streams from other companies and sectors are being utilised.
The circular economy encompasses all materials, no matter whether they are renewable, fossil or mineral. When the focus is on the renewables, the term bioeconomy is used. Approximately one-third of the chemical companies operating in Finland use bio-based raw materials, and their share is on the increase. For example, one of our member companies, Neste, produced 1.6 billion litres of renewable diesel from waste and residue fats and oils (in 2015). This accounts for the annual fuel consumption of about 1.7 million cars.
The development of bioeconomy and the circular economy requires cross-sectoral co-operation on many fronts, e.g. in R&D&I, administration and business. Different sectors bring their own strengths to the joint work.
The chemical sector’s strengths include, e.g.:
- Mastering the molecular level, which enables the smart use of both primary and secondary raw materials. The aim is not only recycling but upcycling. Chemistry plays a crucial role, as its core competence is to create value for different material streams.
- Boosting connectivity: the chemical sector is connected to almost all other sectors by providing them with materials and sustainable solutions. It’s difficult to find a single value network from the whole manufacturing industry in which chemistry wouldn’t be involved. As in the circular economy, ecosystems and refining chains will be of increasing importance, and chemistry will play a key role.