The need to use resources more efficiently requires, amongst others, the development of alternative raw materials and the addition of more recycled materials in products. However, this search for efficiency should not be conducted at all costs. It is necessary to identify and evaluate the related risks in order to manage them.
Unsustainable use of biomass
An option contemplated by industrialists is to substitute fossil-based (or other) raw material by raw material from biomass. Biofuels are a good example of this.
However, biomass originates from ecosystems that are increasingly coming under pressure. These pressures can endanger the renewable nature of these resources.
The increased use of raw materials from biomass can also lead to side effects such as:
• conflicts related to land management (including land issues and access to land);
• increased pressure on water resources;
• increase in price of food;
• loss of biodiversity ;
Therefore, the sustainable and controlled use of biomass is necessary to prevent social or environmental disturbances while meeting the changing needs of our economy.
Recycling has its limits
To ensure the efficient use of resources, it is increasingly recommended to incorporate recycled materials in products. This must of course be safe for the environment and human health. However, some waste, to be subsequently used as raw material, can be contaminated with toxic chemicals, heavy metals, etc. This is the case, for example, for construction waste, electrical and electronic waste, plastics in contact with some chemicals and tyres containing nanoparticles, etc.
This waste can therefore not be recycled in any manner.
Precious resources in new generation products
In response to the challenges of climate change and the necessary reduction of energy consumption, new high-performance products are emerging on the market: turbines for windmills, photovoltaic cells, lighting devices, etc. .
However, these products may contain a number of precious resources that should be judiciously used.