Lower material consumption along the entire added value chain
1. Trends, potentials and challenges
Selection of the most suitable technological concept for a specific application (either product or process) offers firms many possibilities for more resource-efficient and, thus, for more economical materials management. Greater long-term supply security with central resources and a lower impact on the environment can also be achieved. Higher resource efficiency can be attained with familiar and new technologies, with "low tech" or "high tech" or with intelligent combinations of these. There are great potentials, in particular, in the:
raw-material-based industries with a high use of primary materials (e.g. the processing of mineral raw materials, manufacture of basic chemicals)
raw-material-intensive production sectors in which the large volumes of raw materials such as iron or aluminium carry weight
sectors in which scarce raw materials are indispensable for the high-value technologies employed (e.g. high-purity clays for ceramics manufacture)
sectors in which cross-sectional technologies are employed.
2. Aims and strategies for NRW
The promoter of the topic of Resource Efficiency in NRW is the Environmental Technologies Cluster.
The Efficiency Agency NRW (EFA) is the first contact for production enterprises in North Rhine-Westphalia interested in production-integrated environmental protection (PIUS) and resource-efficient materials management. Since its formation in 1998 on the initiative of the NRW Ministry for the Environment, the EFA has been a competent, reliable and neutral partner for the SME sector, acting as an effective interface between industry, science, politics and the general public. It has now initiated and overseen more than 750 projects for increasing efficiency in and with small and medium-sized enterprises. Its staff of 20 in Duisburg and EFA's five regional offices in » Aachen, » Bielefeld, » Münster, » Siegen and » Solingen, together with their specialist partners, work to ensure that firms can profit from the advantages of resource-efficient materials management.
3. Main areas of work and projects of the clusters
To initiate an ecological and economic turnaround in the automobile industry, holistic and innovative approaches must be followed. Firstly, the product must be subject to a well thought out overall concept which minimises raw material consumption throughout its service life. The consumption of raw materials and energy during its production can also be reduced by suitable lean and cost-optimised production systems.