Professor Gallo, what the concept of carbon circular economy consists of and how it relates to production systems?
The definition of the carbon circular economy is similar to the better known concept of circular economy: closing the loop by eco-design, re-use, recycle materials, etc… in order to minimize impact of industrial processes on the environment. However, the concept of circular economy can be better focused on environmental target that appear more urgent such as facing the climate change.
The concept of carbon circular economy therefore aims to assess greenhouse gas emissions related to a specific production process and to pursue the carbon neutrality into the cradle to cradle life cycle of a product. The carbon circular economy takes into account the climate impact of energy and raw materials and all the manufacturing value chain in general. In a low-carbon circular economy, the whole value chain is designed and optimized for a minimum impact on climate. This means to re-think and innovate the industrial processes, by supplying renewable energy and renewable materials in input, by replacing raw materials with secondary materials, by reducing the impact of logistics and of the use phase and end-of life of the product. Every time we avoid the extraction of raw materials or that we avoid a transport because we can print a product where needed, beside we also avoid a greenhouse gas emission.
Professor Gallo, businesses around the world are changing their strategies and innovating faster to decarbonize their actions, please tell us the connection between the decarbonization targets and the circular economy principles
The question we have to answer is: can a circular carbon economy be part of the solution to the climate crisis? The topic was widely debated within the United Nations Conference of parties (COP25) held in Madrid in December 2019.
Several events at COP25 showed the business leaders highlight concrete examples of actions to implement carbon circular economy principles and business models across value chains, in order to achieve the targets of the Paris Agreement. Many events focused on the food and bioeconomy systems, on the crucial role of packaging and of the supply chain, with a particular interest on addictive manufacturing too. These events aimed to demonstrate how transformative action in such sectors can have huge impacts to scale up circular solutions in achieving our climate targets.
How additive manufacturing can be part of the solutions to the climate crisis?
The basic concepts of Circular Economy and of Circular Carbon Economy, refer to the importance of reusing, recycling, recovering and, specifically with a view to climate objectives, removing disposable carbon-containing materials from a daily use and from production systems in general. For this reason the targets of a Circular Carbon Economy necessarily stimulate new forms of design and the use of alternative materials. In this context it is not possible to deny the several opportunities and the high innovative content that addictive manufacturing offers.
Addictive manufacturing in general can help the development of new business models, can support different models of supply chain and more generally can accelerate changes in the lifestyles among people and their common use of products, discouraging disposable produtcs, increasing the time of life of products and their rate of reuse.
All these actions necessarily generate a positive contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Avoiding to produce a product, being able to reduce or avoid its transport or being able to reuse a recycled material for 3D printing, instead of new extracted virgin material, causes less greenhouse gas emissions contributing to the ambitious environmental targets of countries towards climate emergency.
Additive manufacturing is an opportunity to promote eco-design by questioning current production processes and the actual logic of distribution, use and disposal of products.
In redesigning the supply chains, it is possible to rethink them by introducing the concepts of carbon circula economy with the aim of minimizing greenhouse gas emissions and aiming towards carbon neutrality. Finally, 3D printing can extend the use of recycled material, minimaze any loss of materials and encourage the reuse of products and components.
The interview was conducted by Prof. Flavio Tunelli.