Forward thinking needed on materials

9th March 2017


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  • Business & Industry ,
  • Manufacturing ,
  • Chemicals ,
  • Electronics ,
  • Engineering and metals

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IEMA

New materials need to be designed with recycling and reuse in mind to avoid disrupting recycling systems, the Green Alliance says in a new report.

The think tank was commissioned by three organisations – government agency Innovate UK, the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council – to investigate how different materials could be reused, recycled and remanufactured. Such circular economy approaches could lower costs for British manufacturers and increase competitiveness, it said.

The report outlines a methodology developed by the four organisations to assess the resource productivity of three novel materials and processes: carbon fibre reinforced polymers, bioplastics and the materials and technologies used in 3D printing.

The report suggests increasing the use of waste materials and by-products to make bioplastics, which would lower waste cossts in the agricultural and food and drink sectors in the UK. Commercialising bioplastic production from waste would also enable British manufacturers to compete with Brazilian sugar cane and subsidised US corn that now dominate supply chains.

To realise these opportunities, the Green Alliance recommends that the government support new technologies and sectors through its planned industrial strategy. It said the government could assist by providing the information designers and manufacturers need to think through the whole lifecycles of their materials and to identify barriers to recovering value from them.

It could also support collaboration between sectors and along supply chains to develop new applications for recovered materials, as well as fund research into more recyclable materials and new recovery technologies.

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