Value chains must support industrial recycling
Improving their ability to recycle materials from used products can have a vast positive impact on companies’ green accounting. At the moment, too many useable components are going to waste because the value chains are not under control. The Center for Industrial Production assists companies develop circular solutions.
The Center for Industrial Production (CIP) at the Department of Materials and Production at Aalborg University works with a range of large and medium-sized enterprises. The goal is to enhance on the companies’ value chain sustainability by applying circular economy. In short, this means that the companies have to improve on their ability to recycle components and materials in an appropriate way – in order to expand their products’ lifespan and minimize waste, says assistant professor Jesper Hemdrup Kristensen.
- It is possible that those spare parts will not last for another twelve years, but if they can be used to keep a pump running for another five to six years, that will be a green as well as an economic gain, he says.
Recycling materials sounds obvious, but in reality, the circular approach requires a number of challenges to be addressed within the value chain. For instance, the companies have to set up a system of gathering used products in order to recycle them. This can be tricky if the company has a large informal network of retailers and does not necessarily know where the products are being used.
At the same time, companies need to think further ahead when they design their products, says Jesper Hemdrup Kristensen.
One of the CIP’s main focus areas is the development towards what is known as ‘Industry 4.0’ or ‘the Fourth Industrial Revolution’. Here, digitization plays a very important role, as the Internet of Things (IOT) means that much of the technology that surrounds us comes online and is able to communicate with each other – and with us.
- When you add sensors to a product like a pump, a thermostat or a wind turbine, it can collect data on how the product is being used, but also on the wear and tear on single components, explains Jesper Hemdrup Kristensen.
- This can assist us in changing what is worn down and avoiding breakdowns, but equally in recycling the materials and components that would otherwise have gone to waste. In this way, the entire Industry 4.0 is highly compatible with the green revolution and circular value chains.