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Using secondary materials in your business

Materials, Waste, Carbon
All manufacturing industries
Medium cost
Annual saving:
25 - 50 %
Payback time:
1 - 5 Year(s)
Read more
Associated cost savings: Raw material:
20 - 80%
Payback time:
Various examples of industrial symbiosis show diverse payback times, ranging from less than a year to several years
Total cost savings:
Secondary resources are usually cheaper than primary raw materials, and sometimes free
Size of company:
Micro (less than 10), Small (less than 50), Medium (less than 250)
Advancement in applying resource efficiency measures:
Intermediate, Advanced
What is in it for you:
Cost savings on cheaper secondary material. Tapping into the benefits of the circular economy. Adding value to the business and improving the environment.
Descriptive information:

What one company or sector considers a residue, byproduct or waste, another company or industrial sector only sees potential raw materials. More and more industries are trying to transform their waste into valuable resources. This can lead to a win-wins for both the waste generator and manufacturer using the secondary material.

Using secondary materials as an input for manufacturing new products can save on production costs because the so-called 'waste' is sold at a lower price than typical primary materials. Transforming a residue, which is typically a burden to dispose of, into a raw material automatically adds value to the material. It is redirected back into the value chain, which is key tenet of the circular economy policy promoted by the EU.

To achieve the benefits arising from this measure, the manufacturer has to identify the main inputs used in its process and explore greener alternatives, including secondary materials from different processes or industries.

In some EU countries and regions, there are state and local initiatives that support match-making efforts in this area, helping sellers and buyers of secondary materials find each other. This business-wide strategy is firmly in line with European circular economy objectives aimed at boosting global competitiveness, fostering sustainable economic growth and generating new (green) jobs.


Ihobe (2014), Circular economy in Basque Country, Demonstration projects for reusing materials http://www.ihobe.eus/Publicaciones/Ficha.aspx?IdMenu=750e07f4-11a4-40da-...

European Commission (2015), Press Release: Closing the loop: Commission adopts ambitious new Circular Economy Package to boost competitiveness, create jobs and generate sustainable growth. http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-6203_en.htm

European Commission (2014), Towards a circular economy: A zero waste programme for Europe, COM(2014) 398 final, http://cor.europa.eu/en/activities/stakeholders/Documents/COM%282014%29%...

European Commission. 2014. Resource efficiency opportunities in the building sector. COM(2014) 445 final. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eussd/pdf/SustainableBuildingsCommunication.pdf

European Commission (2014), Green action plan for SMEs, COM(2014) 440 final, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52014DC0440...

The Blue Angel, Home and living, https://www.blauer-engel.de/en/products/home-living/recycled-plastics

Additinal good practice examples:

Method, Ocean Plastic, http://methodhome.com/beyond-the-bottle/ocean-plastic/

Jennifer Elks (2012), Method Launches World’s First Product Packaging Made from Ocean Plastic, http://www.sustainablebrands.com/news_and_views/articles/method-launches...

Interface, Redesigning our products, http://recycled-products.interface.com/why-recycled-yarn/

Lavery/Pannel for Interface (2014), The New Industrial Model, http://img.en25.com/Web/InterfaceFLOR/%7B9b238a06-eea6-4e73-aa1b-8bd4dbf...

Lanza Tech, Technical overview, http://www.lanzatech.com/innovation/technical-overview/

Kalundborg Symbiose, http://www.symbiosis.dk/en

J. Ehrenfeld, N. Gertler (1997), Industrial Ecology in practice: The evolution of interdependence at Kalundborg, Journal of Industrial Ecology 1(1), http://www.johnehrenfeld.com/Kalundborg.pdf

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