Improving resource efficiency is becoming more and more important and only those who utilize the diminishing natural resources as economically and efficiently as possible can remain competitive in the medium-term. The introduction of new, environmentally friendly and resource efficient production technologies makes it possible for companies to secure a competitive advantage for themselves. Through the establishment of the Technologie- und Innovationszentrums Umwelttechnik und Ressourceneffizienz Baden-Württemberg GmbH (Umwelttechnik BW) [Innovation centre for environmental technology and resource efficiency of Baden-Württemberg GmbH], the state has taken an important step in the promotion and support of environmental engineering.
The increase in the world‘s population and the rapid economic growth in developing countries is accompanied by an ever increasing requirement for energy and raw materials. Therefore, resource efficient and environmentally friendly technologies are required which, for example, minimise emissions and the production of waste in the production processes. With the incorporation of these measures, companies have an advantage in developing their own sustainability management processes.
In addition to the total raw material consumption, the number of elements in the periodic table which can be utilized by the industry have also increased. During the 1980s, only 12 elements of the periodic table were utilized and in the 1990s, 16 were utilized, in the 2000s, the electronics industry alone has already used 60 elements. These include, for example, metals belonging to the rare earths group whose extraction brings with itself a significant environmental impact in spite of the small quantities recovered. At the same time, they are essential for specific applications, in particular, in the high-tech industry and for alternative energy sources (components for electric drives, wind power plants and fuel cells etc.) and they cannot be replaced by other materials.
The great commercial opportunity for companies
The use of low-emission, resource efficient technologies also presents a great commercial opportunity for the industry. Emissions and waste that are just not produced during the manufacturing process need not be separated, treated or disposed at a later stage and at great expense. Therefore, innovative, resource-saving technologies not only protect the environment, but also help companies save money in the mid-term and so, also improve their competitiveness. In addition to energy consumption, the focus here is on material usage, which makes up 45 percent of the production cost at present in Germany (while the energy costs are at less than 5 percent on average). Baden-Württemberg is particularly affected by this development due to its significant industrial sector.
The Baden-Württemberg state’s strategy for resource efficiency
It is for these reasons that resource efficiency plays an important role in the environmental policies of Baden-Württemberg. The State Government has developed a strategy for the state with specific objectives and measures. These are based on the so-called “Stakeholder’s platform” in which numerous industry associations have participated.
The objectives of the state’s strategies are:
- The decoupling of economic growth from resource usage while maintaining and further developing the high proportion of the manufacturing sector as well as retaining the economic structure of Baden-Württemberg
- Supporting the objective of the national sustainability strategy which is to double raw material productivity in the time period from 1994 to 2020
- Making Baden-Württemberg the leading market player and the leading supplier of resource efficiency technologies
- Ensuring a secure supply of raw materials to the economy through more efficient extraction of primary raw materials and increasing the proportion of secondary raw materials
In order to achieve these objectives, the state’s strategy has proposed 31 measures. They extend from application-oriented research projects through information and support to companies and up to regulatory measures in the field of waste movement.
Besides the Resource Efficiency Congress that takes place annually, the “100 Companies for Resource Efficiency” initiative with its best-practices examples for corporate resource efficiency that have been obtained and communicated to the participants, as well as the strategic projects in the field of ultra-efficient factories and the disassembly factories, represent the focal point of our activities.