Food for thought
2020 was a Tripping Point: We now have more humanmade mass on our planet than living biomass! Human-made mass describes all manufactured materials, from concrete to metals and plastic. Plants, animals, and organisms are living biomass.
Noëmi Kaufmann, November 2022
If we continue like this, there will be three times more human-made mass than biomass on our planet by 2040. Let’s avoid that and circulate the materials we have and retain their value. To do this, we need to increase our efforts to restore nature’s biodiversity, balance the use of agricultural land for food, feed, and energy, and find the means to allow 10 billion people to live well within the limits of our planet by 2050. A sustainable circular economy can help us to design our products and processes in more resource-efficient ways, decrease our carbon footprint, and regenerate natural systems. Transforming our linear system into a circular economy was identified by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation as a USD 4.5 billion business opportunity, and we are already in the process of tapping into it.
The circular economy is a mindset and a framework that is based on three principles: minimizing waste and pollution so that we use raw materials efficiently; circulating materials and products and keeping them in the loop for a longer time; and regenerating and balancing our activities with nature. This can be visualized with two cycles focusing on organic and technical materials.
As a company, it is our goal to have solutions ready to multiply that reduce energy, waste, and water by 50 percent in the value chains of our customers by 2025. This strongly supports a circular economy in both the organic and technical cycle.
The organic cycle is particularly relevant when considering how to enable the creation of value for all the components of the raw materials that we grow on our arable land, including the side streams from food processes. The goal is valorizing those byproducts sustainably and economically, with the priority of always preventing and reducing waste. Our Sortex optical sorters, for example, can contribute to removing mycotoxin-contaminated grains, avoiding whole batches going to waste. We also have a circular food solution that upcycles brewer’s spent grain to create plant-based meat products with up to 40 percent of upcycled raw material.
A broad range of side streams can be valorized through insects, converting them into a new, protein-rich feedstock to make the animal food chain more sustainable. Our partnership with Vnycke, which builds energy plants that convert biomass and industrial waste into energy, is yet another example of extracting value from side streams.
The technical material cycle concentrates on extending the lifetime of machines and plants through increased durability and efficiency, thereby reducing their carbon footprint overall. The resources stay longer in the system and are recycled only at the end of life. Process optimization through digital technologies, predictive maintenance, services, retrofits, and more will help to get the most out of technologies and extend their lifetimes. Another great example is our plant in Brescia, Italy, where older die-casting machines are remanufactured, gaining new life and impact.
It is not a single solution that will solve the challenges we face, but the adoption of a mindset to find new valorization opportunities and new business models within the principles of a circular economy. Those opportunities can be found when we collaborate across companies and industries.