The intensive use of natural resources by current technology and industrial developments in developed economies, as the European Union, is progressively increasing the pressure on the environment. Current patterns of resource use cannot be maintained and need to be reformulated in order to achieve a more sustainable industry and economy. Resource efficiency, which basically aims to provide the same product or service while reducing the amount of resource needed and wasted, has become a major goal in most policy agendas, including at the EC.
Increasing material efficiency is key to bring major economic opportunities, improve productivity, drive down costs and boost competitiveness in Europe.
On this sense, there are several general objectives that can be highlighted. It is necessary to develop new products and services while optimizing production processes by finding new ways to reduce inputs, minimize waste and, improve the management of resource stocks. It is also imperative to, change the consumption patterns, and optimise management and business methods, at the same time that improving logistics (A Resource-Efficient Europe – Flagship initiative under the Europe 2020 Strategy, COM(2011)21). Overall, achieving a more resource efficiency economy requires considering the whole life cycle of product and services.
In its aim to “Transforming the economy” through more “Sustainable production and consumption”, the European Commission’s Roadmap for a Resource Efficiency Europe (Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe, COM(2011)571) suggests to use product policies (such as Ecodesign, Ecolabel, or Green Product Procurement) to address material efficiency, for example by defining new product criteria. Moreover, the EU has also revised the legal framework for waste (Waste Framework Directive (2008)) to define it on the entire life cycle of products and explicitly focus on waste prevention, reuse, recycling and recovery.
In the Flagship initiative under the Europe 2020 Strategy (COM(2011)21), the European Commission identified possible strategies to promote the material efficiency in the EU, including among the others:
- Increasing the recycling rates to reduce the pressure on demand for primary raw materials, help reuse valuable materials which would otherwise be wasted, and reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from extraction and processing processes;
- Improving the design of products to reduce both the demand for energy and raw materials, and make those products more durable and easier to recycle.
H08 developed the “Resource Efficiency Assessment of Product” (REAPro) method, a scientifically robust method to assess material efficiency of Energy-related products (ErP) according to several parameters, including: Reusability/Recyclability/Recoverability; Recycled content; Durability and the; Use of key resources (including critical raw materials (CRM), and precious and scarce materials).
When a product group is targeted by a product policy, it is possible, thanks to REAPro, to analyse the performances of representative products, identify their hot-spots, and transparently derive product measures that, when implemented in policies, can contribute to improve material efficiency and hence reduce environmental impacts.
In the last years, H08 carried out several research projects on the development and application of the REAPro method.
The outcomes for the first stage of the research (titled “Integration of resource efficiency and waste management criteria in the implementing measures under the Ecodesign Directive”), developed: from December 2009 to September 2011., are described in:
- F. Ardente, M-A. Wolf, F. Mathieux, D. Pennington. “Review of resource efficiency and end-of-life requirements”. Deliverable 1 . European Commission. Joint Research Centre (JRC). Technical Report. July 2011.
- F. Ardente, M-A. Wolf, F. Mathieux, D. Pennington. “In-depth analysis of the measurement and verification approaches, identification of the possible gaps and recommendations”. Deliverable 2 . European Commission. Joint Research Centre (JRC). Technical Report. July 2011.
- F. Ardente, M-A. Wolf, F. Mathieux, D. Pennington. “Contribution to impact assessment”. Deliverable 3 . European Commission. Joint Research Centre (JRC). Technical Report. July 2011.
- F. Ardente, M-A. Wolf, F. Mathieux, D. Pennington. “Final Executive Summary”. European Commission. Joint Research Centre (JRC). Technical Report. July 2011.
The results of the second stage of the research (titled “Integration of resource efficiency and waste management criteria in European product policies – Second phase”), developed in the period: from September 2011 –to December 2012, are available in the following reports:
- F. Ardente, F. Mathieux, Javier Sanfélix Forner. Analysis of Durability. European Commission. Joint Research Centre (JRC) Technical Report. November 2012.
- F. Ardente, F. Mathieux. “Application of the project’s methods to three product groups”. European Commission. Joint Research Centre (JRC) Technical Report. November 2012.
- F. Ardente, F. Mathieux. “Refined methods and Guidance documents for the calculation of indices concerning Reusability/Recyclability/Recoverability, Recycled content, Use of Priority Resources, Use of Hazardous substances, Durability”. European Commission. Joint Research Centre (JRC) Technical Report. September 2012.
The outcomes from both stages were illustrated and discussed within a stakeholder consultation process (August – September 2012). The documents containing details on such process are:
- F. Ardente, F. Mathieux. “Final Executive Summary with logbook of comments from stakeholders”. European Commission. Joint Research Centre (JRC) Technical report. December 2012.
- F. Ardente, F. Mathieux. Presentations at the Stakeholder Event.
Currently H08 has started a third stage on this subjecti (regarded as “Environmental Footprint and Material Efficiency Support for Product Policy”), which was launched in November 2012, and will be concluded in 2015. This research aims at improving the REAPro (revising the developed indices), based on further applications to several case-studies. Updates on the project (including the announcement of a new stakeholder consultation in early 2015) and the reports generated will be provided through this webpage.
Additional scientific publications of H08 about material efficiency :
- F. Ardente, F. Mathieux, M. Recchioni. Combining five criteria to identify relevant products measures for resource efficiency of an energy using product. 20th CIRP International Conference on Life Cycle Engineering, Singapore, 17-19 April 2013
- F. Ardente, F. Mathieux. “Environmental assessment of the durability of energy-using products: method and application”. Journal of Cleaner Production, (in press). http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2014.03.049