Innovation is increasingly important and necessary in our daily lives, so much that it has become one of the fundamental pillars of our society and of our economic model. Innovating is usually related to developing new products with better performance, however, innovation can also be applied with other objectives such as, for example, better use of resources, the manufacture of easily reusable products or the design of new processes that produce less waste. This type of innovation is known as eco-innovation. In today’s blog we tell you what eco-innovation consists of, its objectives, how it can be carried out and some of its main benefits, both in the companies that apply it and in our society.

What is eco-innovation?

The concept of eco-innovation refers to the development of new products or production processes, or even business models, that have a low environmental impact during the course of their life cycle. This type of innovation is framed within the circular economy model, which is increasingly common and necessary. This economic model that aims to redefine the current linear model, based on the extraction, production and elimination of resources.

In general, innovation has always gone hand in hand with the linear economy, where improving products or processes implied an increase in the consumption of raw materials, without thinking about the amount of waste generated or the possibility of reincorporating said waste or industrial fabric by-products. As information, in 2018 alone a total of 48.5 million tons of electronic waste were generated, which is equivalent to the weight of 4,500 Eiffel Towers. Of all this waste, only 20% were recycled. If we continue at this rate, it is estimated that in 2050 we will generate a total of 120 million tons of electronic waste per year, something unaffordable for the planet, both due to resources and pollution.
In this link, you can see a project that we have carried out on reuse and / or recycling of electrical waste. Due to this important problem, the need arises to innovate thinking about protecting the environment, for this reason the concept of eco-innovation was born which, as we anticipated, has as its main objective to reduce the environmental impact of products and industrial processes that exist today. This reduction can be carried out by different methods such as, for example, updating current processes or by implementing new processes or products that have been designed to minimize their environmental impact.

Key ideas of eco-innovation

In addition to the main objective of eco-innovation, which seeks to minimize the environmental impact of any industrial activity or product, there are some specific ideas that help us better understand this new innovation model:

  • In the design stage of any product, its future environmental impacts must be considered, both in the production process and during the subsequent life cycle of the product. This stage is one of the keys to reducing the waste generated. An example would be the use of easily recyclable materials or the preparation of the product to be repaired rather than replaced.
  • Industrial processes, before being implemented, must consider all by-products and waste generated. In this way it will be possible to condition said by-products to reincorporate them into the industrial fabric.

In addition to these ideas or principles, a key aspect of eco-innovation is social awareness. Little by little, the philosophy of extraction, production and disposal of materials and products should be replaced.

What is eco-innovation for a company?

The image of companies is increasingly important for end consumers. Therefore, companies seek to apply eco-innovation to their products and processes to demonstrate their commitment to the environment. This can be a key factor in such a competitive market. In addition, the idea of converting a waste into a resource can significantly reduce the associated manufacturing costs, either because they are cheaper than virgin raw materials or by avoiding the management of these by-products or waste in landfills. Therefore, for companies, the implementation of actions related to the circular economy and eco-innovation can mean a substantial improvement in the final profitability of their products and processes.

Examples and applications of eco-innovation

Next, we leave you some applications of Eco-innovation along with real cases that we have carried out from ATRIA:

  • The use of toxic or polluting compounds during industrial processes generates dangerous by-products that must be managed later. In addition, it poses a risk to workers. In this project we substituted a dangerous product for an “eco” alternative that performed the same function without containing dangerous compounds.
  • Many waste or by-products that are taken to landfills have the possibility of being reused in other production processes. The search for opportunities for these wastes or by-products can be highly profitable. We leave you an example of how you can carry out the reincorporation of a waste to other processes
  • The manufacture of new products that include the use of by-products is a great initiative. An example of this is the manufacture of counterweights with mining waste or the use of biofibers as reinforcement of polymers
  • Ecodesign of a product from scratch to facilitate its subsequent recycling or repair, thus reducing the amount of waste generated during its life cycle.
  • Study and eco-design of processes to reduce generated by-products and waste. An example is the study for the implementation of a line for the reuse and recycling of electronic waste that we anticipated at the beginning of the post.

Do you want to apply eco-innovation in any of your processes or products? Contact us!

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