Understanding the circular economy, the sustainable development goals and other terms linked to sustainability is key to grasping the challenges faced by society today. At SP Group, we analyse the key concepts for understanding sustainability. In this article, we discuss new materials such as bioplastic and much more.
THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY: A MODEL FOR ACHIEVING SUSTAINABILITY
But what is the circular economy? In short, it is a system for optimising resources by reusing and recycling materials and products as many times as possible. The goal is to lengthen the useful life of products and reduce the amount of resources we use and waste we generate. The principles of the circular economy are reduce, reuse, recycle.
The circular economy is worlds away from the current throwaway model, which uses a huge amount of resources and materials, not to mention energy. That’s why there are increasingly more calls for a sustainable system. Laws are being introduced to ensure transformation takes place with sustainability as the goal.
WHAT ARE THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS (SDGs)?
The Sustainable Development Goals were launched by the UN to eradicate poverty, guarantee equal development for all and protect the planet, as part of the 2030 Agenda. While all of the 17 goals are interconnected and have a link to sustainability, the following are the most representative in that regard:
- Clean water and sanitation
• Affordable and clean energy
• Industry, innovation and infrastructure
• Sustainable cities and communities
• Responsible consumption and production
• Climate action
• Life below water
• Life on land
The goals in turn comprise 169 specific targets requiring collaboration between governments, as well as the involvement of public and private institutions and citizens.
CARBON FOOTPRINT: A KEY TO UNDERSTANDING SUSTAINABILITY
The carbon footprint is an indicator of the amount of greenhouse gases generated and emitted by an individual, a company or a product during its life cycle and throughout the production chain. This sometimes includes product consumption, end-of-life recovery and elimination. The term carbon footprint has therefore become an indicator for measuring direct and indirect emissions of gases including methane and CO₂.
Carbon footprint occurs globally as well as individually, and it is possible to measure the impact generated by a business or individual by examining their carbon footprint. We generate a carbon footprint in practically all aspects of our lives. It increases or decreases based on how we eat, travel and how much energy we use on a daily basis.
NEW MATERIALS. WHAT IS BIOPLASTIC?
Bioplastic is produced from renewable sources, setting it apart from oil derivatives such as conventional plastic. It is manufactured from raw materials like starch, corn, soy or potato starch, among others. Bioplastic could be described as a natural polymer.
As with conventional plastics, there are different types of bioplastic. Some of these are sustainable according to a set of specific conditions. For example, bio-based plastics such as Bio-PE and Bio-PET are recyclable if they are monomaterials. Others, such as bio-based and biodegradable plastics (PLA, PHA and PBS), are compostable.
ENERGY EFFICIENCY: ONE OF THE GREAT OBJECTIVES FOR A GREEN WORLD
Energy efficiency is about optimising our energy use. In other words, adapting our consumption habits so we can do the same with less energy. A device or process is energy efficient if it has below-average consumption when operational.
To achieve energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption, we need to bring sustainable energy sources into the mix. Currently, it is challenging to source all of our electricity needs from renewable sources. Nonetheless, this is one of the end goals of energy efficiency, and one which will make our world more sustainable.