Circular Economy: Now Becoming a Necessity
Neelanjan Banerjee
Vice Chairman and Managing Director
LANXESS India Pvt Ltd

The various sustainability & environmental issues, along with the other associated factorials put the World directly into the Reduce-Reuse -Recycle trend with a notable shift from traditional take-make-dispose approach. Here, in this article, the author emphasizes on certain contributing dynamics of Circular Economy viz. the benefits, the underlying principle, role of digitalization that plays here, contribution of technology and creativity to it, etc in context of Chemical Industry which have made the article an insightful read.

For any organization, Circular Economy is more than just recycling. It means a strategic decision making, which goes hand-in-hand with new business models.

There are several benefits of Circular Economy. In many a cases, the recycled material costs less than mining and processing primary raw materials, which means - industry can retain ownership of scarce resources if it develops its own material cycles. Considering the industry is now coming under the substantial external pressure to act in a climatefriendly way, the most important aspect of Circular Economy is: such circular management will help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. However, many companies are also self-motivated to bring about a positive change in the traditional processes.

The Underlying Principle:
Such models are based on the service offerings instead of products, such as the sale of flight hours by a jet engine manufacturer, or chemical leasing where the manufacturer sells the use of the chemicals and gets the spent chemicals back. Not only is that, such models also do own the responsibility of execution / maintenance of environmentally sound processing or disposal.

In the business-to-business sector of the industry, the material-flow is relatively clear and the material properties can be guaranteed more effectively, in which the end-consumers dispose of a whole variety of packaging materials with lots of residue. In addition, there are longstanding supplier relationships in the industry, and many of them are based on mutual trust that foster the exchange between the players. However, these players have to contend with the problem of missing information on availability and quality certification regarding reuse and processing. In the plastics sector, it must be noted that recycling can have side-effects such as the generation or concentration of pollutants. Furthermore, the processes used should be environmentally and economically sound. Chemical recycling - through which hitherto non-recyclable plastics become the starting material for new plastics - is an interesting option, but still a long way off.

Role that Digitalization Plays:
From industry perspective, digitalization contributes very pertinently to the creation and promotion of recycling systems. It helps to solve the big information deficit problems by providing data for quality, quantity, material flow, product lifecycle, specific batch verification processes, etc. Sensors and artificial intelligence can help to attain cleaner material flow. New business models can be realized through online marketplaces.

Neelanjan Banerjee, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, LANXESS India says, "It is important for the Industry as well as the Government to adopt a systemic standpoint. The current challenges and the opportunities presented by the circular economy, preservation of resources, climate protection, and digitalization are all interrelated. Assessing their interaction is just as important as identifying partial solutions, as their true value can only be examined against the bigger picture. We must establish sustainability on the strategic agenda in companies and in politics, and should not be afraid to act boldly".

Openness to Technology & Creativity
Circular economy demands new solutions from many players. Openness to technology and creativity are required from all decision-makers. For example , in chemical recycling, material is broken down into its chemical building blocks. Methods such as pyrolysis (thermal decomposition), hydrogenation (addition of hydrogen to other chemical elements), or de-polymerization (breakdown of macromolecules into their constituent parts) are suitable for plastics. These building blocks have the same quality of original building blocks. Chemical recycling can process the waste that is too complex or too contaminated for mechanical recycling. Environmental efficiency of the methods must be checked on a case-by-case basis.

Mechanical recycling generally refers to mechanical or physical steps such as sorting, washing, melting, and filtering. After this, the material returns to the material cycle: Plastic bottles can be turned back into bottles. Or beads are turned into noise barriers. This downcycling is not always desirable. Chemical recycling can help to prevent it. At the same time, the concept of REUSE needs to be understood well. It is not only bottles that are reusable. Even the other Industrial products such as machines can be leased or bought second-hand as well.

The use of biotechnology to create a viable Bio-Economy is important. CO2 can be used as a raw material in a host of biotechnological pathways. Microorganisms are used to absorb CO2 into biomass or convert it into reusable materials. As with the chemical use of CO2, the sustainability of these processes must be examined. In particular, photosynthesis of plants can be used to absorb CO2 into biomass such as algae.

CO2 can also be used as a raw material for plastics, fuels, and construction materials among others. Whether as a combustion product or a process gas, CO2 is a carbon source that industry must use more effectively in order to reduce its dependence on oil. Carbon is the number one element for organic chemistry in particular. Furthermore, in conjunction with the measurement of energy efficiency, usage of CO2 helps to reduce emissions.

In general, renewable energies are the key elements for sustainable development. They are another essential component of the circular economy. In other words, it is often hard for circular processes driven by fossil fuels to fulfill all their sustainability potential. Conversely, it also makes little sense to channel renewable energies into utterly damaging products or processes. LANXESS is focused on making its product lifecycles as eco-friendly as possible.

Material Recycling is on Upward Trail:
LANXESS takes its environmental responsibility very seriously. The group is working to make its use of energy and raw materials more efficient than ever before; and uses all the available technologies to keep on reducing the emissions and the waste. With its products, LANXESS has been supporting the societal transition to a more sustainable and low-carbon based one. It focuses on the entire product lifecycle with this regard. The circular economy starts with product design and includes environmentally efficient utilization, for instance in electric mobility. Recyclability is one of several environmental aspects here. LANXESS has already developed their products with a substantial rate of recycled materials in its range.

As Good as New
LANXESS has been researching its options that make product recycling easier and more attractive. The aim is to keep on reducing the number of primary raw materials in the product cycle. One example of innovation is product types under the Tepex brand, which are made from recycled fibers in a matrix of recycled thermoplastic material. Thermoplastics are plastics that can be deformed by heat. This process can be repeated any number of times. Tests on initial material samples have demonstrated that these types of recycled material are on a par in terms of mechanical and flame-retardant properties with their equivalents made from new materials. LANXESS Bond-Laminates opened two new production lines for Tepex in Brilon in September. This way, the company is taking the strong demand for resilient components for lightweight cars and consumer electronics into account.

Cooperation is the Key for LANXESS
The transition to Circular Economy cannot be driven by one company alone. That is why LANXESS enters into strategic alliances and devises new solutions with partners, especially in the field of chemical recycling.