By Mathy Stanislaus
I recently attended a G7 Alliance for Resource Efficiency workshop in Yokohama, Japan on Promoting International Cooperation for Improving Global Resource Efficiency and on the Kobe 3Rs (reduce, reuse & recycle). In Yokohama, I described our current activities promoting Sustainable Materials Management (SMM), which analyzes the entire life cycle of products and services to identify the best ways to use materials while minimizing environmental impacts (e.g., use of energy, water and land). That means looking at use of resources from the point of materials extraction, through production, all the way to the end of a product’s life and beyond to reuse and recycling.
By advancing systems-based approaches such as SMM, we can reduce often-overlooked sources of significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, such as those from the supply chain of the manufacturing sector. The Paris Climate Agreement, for example, set a global goal to limit global warming to less than 2o Celsius by reducing GHG emissions. More than 40 percent of these emissions are attributable to materials management, and the G7 Alliance offers an important new mechanism to help meet the goal.
We are working collaboratively with the G7 Alliance for Resource Efficiency (G7 members from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with representation from the European Union) and the private and public sector to foster a circular economy, one in which materials are used for as long as possible and materials and products are recovered at the end of their life. Our work is important because, as the G7 Alliance found last year, “for every one percent increase in gross domestic product (GDP), raw material use has risen by 0.4 percent . . . much of raw material input in industrial economies is returned to the environment as waste with[in] one year. . . Unsustainable consumption of natural resources and concomitant environmental degradation translates to increased business risks through higher material costs, as well as supply uncertainties and disruptions.”
The U.S is hosting a G7 Alliance for Resource Efficiency workshop in Washington, D.C. on March 22-23, 2016. At this forum participants from across the globe will explore how to use life-cycle concepts to advance resource efficiency and focus on significant upstream impacts in supply chains, specifically the auto sector. Why focus on the auto sector? That sector is an important part of our industrial and service economies and is significant to the gross domestic product of several G7 countries. It is also a global economic driver with supply chains reaching across the world. Additionally, automobile manufacturers and their suppliers are innovatively using life-cycle concepts to identify and address significant impacts and resource use.
Sessions will address a wide range of topics designed to benefit all participants – overcoming SMM barriers, the use of innovative materials and eco-design, information tools to foster life-cycle thinking, industry “hotspot” identification, supply chain transparency, incentives for change, and more. Participants will identify best practices that are transferrable to other sectors. Follow the conversation with the #G7CircularEconomy hashtag.
Building on the results of the workshop, we plan to host subsequent workshops to support the global transition to sustainable materials management. We know that there will be challenges ahead, but I am proud we are working with our fellow G7 countries in taking actions that will be beneficial to others for years to come.
Continue the discussion by following @EPAland’s conversation on #G7CircularEconomy.