Maintaining sustainability of manufacturing is no small challenge for companies involved in the industry. The solutions used in earlier years, when green alternatives were not yet so widespread, contribute greatly to the development of environmental hazards. Specifically, we are talking about depletion of natural resources, water and soil pollution, production of e-waste or destruction of the ozone layer. However, more and more technologies are emerging that prioritize the environment and they are being used by the manufacturing and automotive industries, among others.
What is green technology? Examples in the automotive sector
Modern economy and environmental protection do not have to be mutually exclusive. This is best demonstrated by green technologies, which have no negative impact on our environment. There are many ways to monitor the environment and remove pollution on an ongoing basis, as well as to carry out green industrial processes. Effectively solving the technological problems of reducing carbon footprint and waste is a challenge that more and more companies in various sectors are trying to take on. Measures in this regard can be seen in the automotive and transportation markets, among others.
Public electric transport
The automotive industry is constantly evolving, resulting in more and more electric cars. A growing number of top automotive manufacturers are placing electric models in their product ranges. Such models are getting cheaper and even more technologically advanced every year. It's not just individual customers who are benefiting from such trends – public electric transportation is now also making quite an impact. There are already more than 420,000 electric-powered buses running around cities in China. European countries don't want to lag behind – such solutions are increasingly common in the region. Although the initial purchase cost may be higher than for internal combustion models, such an investment pays off due to the lack of dependence on expensive fossil fuels, as well as due to the significantly reduced environmental impact.
Low-cost energy storage
The development of electric cars has created new solutions for low-cost energy storage. This is especially true for the cobalt and lithium battery market, the price of which is decreasing dramatically year after year. However, the expanded battery market is not only an opportunity for electric vehicles – batteries are also widely used in the industry in general. With their use, the reliability, resilience, as well as flexibility of power systems can be effectively increased.
Another green technology worth mentioning in the context of manufacturing within the automotive market is plastic recycling. As much as 260 million tons of plastic waste are generated each year – only 16% of which is recycled. Today, many manufacturing companies are transitioning into the so-called "circular model", the basic idea of which is to eliminate waste in various sectors, optimize costs and increase production efficiency. Closed-loop manufacturing brings benefits not only to the environment, but also to the entire enterprise. Solutions of this type are provided by companies such as Knauf Industries, among many others. The offer of this manufacturer includes, for example, reusable transport packaging, which serves as an important element of so-called reverse logistics.
Hydrogen in the energy transition
The use of hydrogen is a key element in the fight against global warming. It's an alternative energy source with many advantages – it's a "clean" fuel that is increasingly cheaper to obtain and store while also having considerable investment potential. Currently, industry is the main sector where this raw material is used, but companies are also pinning considerable hopes on its application in transportation. Hydrogen-powered vehicles can already be seen on the roads (e.g. the Toyota Mirai). The enormous potential in this field also applies to trucks, buses and rail transportation. Hydrogen can make a significant contribution to the stability and flexibility of the entire energy system.
Why do we need sustainable technology?
Sustainability is the idea that meeting present needs should not limit the opportunities for future generations. It's a concept that applies not only to society, but also to the economy and the environment. Experts predict that, in the absence of appropriate action in this regard, CO2 emissions in the United States alone will reach nearly 5 billion tons as early as 2050. According to a Swedish research program – IGBP – the Earth can safely "absorb" only 250 billion more tons – meaning that we are only a few decades away from a climate catastrophe. The first signs can already be seen today.
One of the ways to combat these threats is to use green technologies, i.e. innovations that take into account natural resources and promote economic and social development. The most important premise of sustainable development is to reduce environmental risks by preventing environmental degradation and pollution.
Examples of green technology in manufacturing – Knauf Industries
Knauf Industries is a network of companies operating in all areas of the economy. The Knauf Group is involved in, among other things, the manufacture of foamed plastic products (such as expanded polystyrene (EPS) and polypropylene (EPP) car components and and expanded foam components for automotive battery packs), as well as the production of components using the thermoplastic injection method. Importantly, the principles of sustainability are implemented at every stage of production by recovering used materials and reducing emissions and energy use as much as possible. The company's strategy also includes great commitment to the principles of circular economy to avoid uncontrolled discarding, storage or burning of polymers.