Resource efficiency and circular economy integrated in a systematic framework tailored for small and medium-sized enterprises in the chemical industry

Linked Sessions:

Poster Number:  19 

Main Presenter:    Alexandra Vogt 

Co-Authors:   Philipp Preiss     Claus Lang-Koetz      Ingela Tietze                                    

The use of energy and raw materials in the industrial sector is a major contributor to global warming. In Germany, the chemical industry accounts for approximately one third of the total annual industrial electricity demand. Furthermore, the chemical sector has a huge demand for raw materials and is thus not only a key player in the energy but also in the raw material transition. Overarching strategies for the transformation are increasing resource efficiency and circular economy, but their operationalisation is a complex effort marked by challenges and untapped potential. The transformation of complex production systems as well as inter- and intra-company processes towards sustainability is especially difficult for small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs), as they often lack necessary technical and human resources. While many SMEs are implementing environmentally relevant measures, the underutilization of sophisticated approaches constrain the full potential for reducing greenhouse
gas emissions, energy, and material demand. As 90% of the chemical companies are SMEs, there is need for a conceptual framework targeting more holistic strategies to support the energy and material transition.
Within the project Integrative Resource Efficiency Management for medium sized enterprises in the chemical industry (IRMa) we developed a framework that assists the identification and assessment of
– Potentials
– Measures, and
– Technologies
for increasing resource efficiency and circularity. The IRMa approach encompasses a continuous improvement in Plan-DO-Check-Act-Control (PDCAC) cycles and a technology screening, supported by an IRMa platform solution. In each stage we use indicators and multi-criteria decision making for selection. The developed set of indicators covers criteria for resource efficiency and circular economy and specific categories such as energy, emissions, waste, waste water. The calculated overall score is subject to individual preferences and allows for individual weights of the different aspects. Data availability and processing is a key element of our approach and we thus decided to support SMEs by providing an IT platform that supports the PDCAC-cycle. Time series management, indicator calculation, and a dashboard with individual visualisation accounts for company specific preferences.
Overall, the IRMa approach constitutes a comprehensive solution, addressing resource efficiency and circular economy practices.

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