Why does material efficiency stay in the shades of energy efficiency?
Marlene Preiß, Christian Haubach, Mario Schmidt
Pforzheim University, Germany – Institute for Industrial Ecology (INEC)
The efficient utilization of raw materials is a crucial topic for more and more companies in order to assure their existence and competiveness. Therefore the German federal state of Baden-Württemberg has commissioned the Institute for Industrial Ecology (INEC) at Pforzheim University and further partners to compile and evaluate 100 company case studies on resource efficiency in the state’s manufacturing industry. While many studies on energy efficiency in industries have been published, empirical studies on material efficiency and expectable saving potentials are scarce, although material costs have a stake of around 40 % in the cost structure of the manufacturing industry and energy costs in contrast only account for 2 %. This fact underlines the importance and the leverage of material efficiency. The evaluation and comparison of the completed case studies revealed the strong interlinkage of energy and material usage, or more precisely, that an increase in material efficiency was the precondition for various energy efficiency improvements. Another common scheme within the case studies was the observation that successful resource efficiency required cross-functional and interdisciplinary teams within and beyond the companies. Technology adoption or innovation which was often necessary for an increase in material efficiency could only be realised in close collaboration with equipment manufacturers.
In addition to the qualitative evaluation, the companies participated in a survey in order to identify barriers and success factors for resource efficiency in companies. This extends previous studies on energy efficiency. The companies’ motivation for resource efficiency measures and the knowledge of relevant methods were examined and the support from different departments within the company was analysed. Based on the results, suggestions for suitable policy instruments are shown.