German chemical producers eye substitution of fossil fuels in bid to achieve resource circularity
German chemicals companies BASF, Covestro and others are eager to find more sustainable substitutes for many raw materials they and companies from other industry sectors are using in a bid to edge closer to a circular economy that produces as little waste as possible, Bert Fröndhoff writes in the business daily Handelsblatt. BASF said it wants to double its revenues made with circularity concepts to 17 billion euros by 2030 and use 250,000 tonnes of recycled "secondary resources" by 2025 to replace newly produced raw materials. Covestro said it is working on a long-term strategy that excludes the use of mineral oil, which currently is the basis of over 90 percent of its products, and only relies on renewable power sources and sustainable raw materials. The author notes that this an ambitious goal, as currently less than nine percent of all resources used are recycled or otherwise used again in the global economy, according to the Circularity Gap Report. While carbon dioxide needed for many chemical products in theory is abundantly available in CO2 emissions, extracting it by carbon sequestration or other procedures is still very costly compared to using mined primary resources like oil or gas, the newspaper explains. Covestro has started using captured CO2 for its products regardless and hopes to fully convert its production basis in the next 20 years.
In a separate interview with the newspaper, Covestro CEO Markus Steilemann said the far-reaching economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic would be an ideal occasion to begin a profound renewal of the industry, arguing that "we must not miss this opportunity." The pandemic and the economic recovery programmes launched in response to it would represent "a perfect mixture to push ahead with the transformation into a climate-neutral and circular economy with sustainable growth," Steilemann said, warning that "we must not simply revive the resource-consuming system."
Recycling and resource consumption have been climbing on the agenda of companies and lawmakers as Germany and the rest of Europe are aiming to achieve climate-neutrality by 2050. A 2020 UN resource panel report found that the overall emissions reduction potential of material life cycle efficiency improvements would be in the range of 23 gigatonnes of CO2 by 2060 without a major impact on consumer comfort but with high savings potential also in the buildings and transport sectors.