Resource efficiency means using the Earth’s limited resources in a sustainable manner while minimising impacts on the environment. Resource efficiency includes for example re-manufacturing, repair, maintenance, recycling and eco-design.
Resource efficiency is one of the main drivers of companies' competitiveness since, reportedly, European manufacturing firms spend, on average, 40% of their costs on raw materials, with energy and water pushing this to 50% of the total manufacturing costs.
Therefore, improving the resource efficiency of SMEs offers enormous potential for reducing production cost and increasing productivity while, at the same time, making a significant contribution to addressing environmental challenges.
So-called circular economy enhances resource and cost savings by maximising the time that resources, products and components are used.
The main principles of resource efficient circular economy are following:
- More sustainable management of natural resources or creating higher value with less materials;
- Involving companies and consumers in the process of becoming more environmentally friendly;
- Implementation of the „polluter pays” principle;
- Gradual elimination of subsidies that are harmful to the environment;
- Green and innovative public procurement;
- Eco-design and eco-innovation.
What can a company do to become more resource efficient?
Save: save the resource in every possible way and in every possible place considering sustainability and environmental impact.
Recycling and reuse: increase internal reuse and recycling of (waste) materials and elements of the product, e.g. in repair services.
Substitute: use secondary/recycled raw materials instead of primary materials as input materials, if possible. However, check that these materials do not originate from uses where hazardous substances are frequently used. For example, never use secondary plastics from electronic wastes to produce children toys (content of brominated flame retardants).
Reduce: assess the amounts of chemicals and other raw materials used in production, including energy and water. Identify reduction potentials. Employees are a good information source to identify superfluous use!