The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has published Sustainable Manufacturing and the Circular Economy, a report that evaluates the sustainability of different circular economy strategies and provides four detailed case studies examining possibilities in different sectors. Caroline Dollinger, a senior scientist in Energetics’ Strategic Technical Analysis division, was a co-author.
The report addresses challenges with today’s linear production model, in which raw materials are mined or grown, transformed into manufactured goods, used, and then discarded. To quote:
To maintain and restore the natural environment and enhance the well-being of society, manufacturing and the complex worldwide supply chain that feeds production must be transformed from a linear to a circular model.
To this end, the authors examine how various strategies could be enacted and what their impacts would be. Analysts quantified material consumption and disposal, conducted life cycle analysis to determine cradle-to-grave impacts, and identified trade-offs. The analysis team also identified knowledge gaps and supportive research to fill those gaps and improve material efficiency.
The report follows the four case studies through the manufacturing industry’s linear production model, with goods being produced from raw materials, used, and discarded at one end and waste disposal and processing occurring at the other end. The case study topics are the electrification of cement manufacturing, food loss and waste reduction, plastics recycling, and circularity for electric vehicle lithium-ion batteries.
Underpinned by years of analysis work, the report was a product of the DOE Industrial Efficiency and Decarbonization and Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Technologies Offices (IEDO-AMMTO) Strategic Analysis Team, led by Joe Cresko. The full list of authors can be found on page iii of the report, which is now available on the DOE website.