Circular economy – Why recycling alone is not enough – Knowledge


The economy must become greener to save nature and the planet from further destruction. This is what the circular economy aims to achieve. However, this is not the best way in all cases.

Gas heating has serious disadvantages – this has not only been known since Russia invaded Ukraine. It produces CO2 and damages the climate. And yet most people probably think tearing out a gas heating system that was only installed two years ago and replacing it with a heat pump can’t be a good thing. After all, the production of gas heating also required energy and raw materials.


Replacing a gas heater with a heat pump can be worthwhile.

IMAGO / Wolfgang Maria Weber

“Nevertheless, this conclusion is wrong,” says Harald Desing from the Federal Research Institute Empa. Because when viewed over the entire life cycle, from the manufacture of the heating system to its CO2 emissions during use to recycling at the end of its life, it is the CO2 emissions that carry the most weight. That’s why it’s worth replacing a new gas heating system with a heat pump.

The first glance often does not provide the right answer

Doing business sustainably is complex, and a whole national research program is taking care of that NFP73to this topic. Nicola Blum from ETH Zurich is working alongside Harald Desing. She also gives an example of how the first glance often does not provide the right answer: The effect of recycling is sometimes overestimated even by experts: “There are other strategies that are even better – for example using less material in a product or using it use longer.”

Example glass packaging. On the one hand there are bottles with depot. Used bottles are collected, taken to the beverage manufacturer, washed and refilled. Deposit bottles are thicker to withstand this, so they need more glass.

In addition, transport and washing cost energy and cause CO2 – nevertheless, the balance is significantly better than for one-way bottles that are melted down to produce new bottles.

How we improve the ecological balance of disposable bottles

But there is a way to improve the environmental footprint of disposable bottles, says Nicola Blum: “You collect the glass and use it to make glass wool to insulate houses.” So far, the material EPS, which is made from petroleum, has mainly been used for this purpose. If it is replaced, less oil will be used.

However, such an analysis alone is not enough. No manufacturer can build a circular economy alone. Different companies have to work together. In the construction industry in particular, some are trying to do this, observes Nicola Blum, because it is known that construction has a large ecological footprint.

Politicians should hold companies accountable

However, there are obstacles to the restructuring of the economy: there is often a lack of data to even be able to decide which type of cycle is best. Nicola Blum mentions the example of plastic. The public is now putting a lot of pressure on the economy to do without this material. It has not yet been clarified in each case whether the alternatives are actually better

But science alone cannot provide the necessary data, says Nicola Blum. That is why politicians must dictate that companies carry out the necessary analyzes and make them public.

See more here

See also  Christmas Eve and Christmas: Backgrounds and differences explained

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *