Design of new materials and substances for circular economy and sustainability
The world´s economic growth is based in a “throwaway culture” with an intensive use of natural resources, production of enormous amounts of waste, greenhouse gases emissions and pollution of soils and water, all of them affecting negatively Biodiversity Loss and Climate Change. Equilibrating these problems requires technical, social and equity subjects and the Spanish Strategy for the Circular Economy (“España Circular 2030”)1 supports promoting research and innovation, favouring valorisation, waste prevention to avoid dumping in the environment, establishing the need for sustainable products, materials and resources, minimizing and reusing the unavoidable wastes and decarbonizing.
Spain needs more than 2.5 times its surface to support this kind of economy, this aggravating its dependence on other countries, making us less competitive and more vulnerable and urgent action is needed, although every year great amounts of valuable agroindustrial residues (AR) are produced, most of them accumulated in landfills and their potential as renewable raw materials wasted, even if in some cases with due development they can substitute non-renewable and scarce fossil resources.
An ever-increasing scientific community is carrying out valorisation of wastes as a powerful tool to support Sustainable Development and fight against Climate Change and as part of this school of thought, M. A. Martin Luengo is carrying out a project based on Biorefinery approaches with AR2, with the lowest possible environmental impact, choosing solvents and reactants of low or null, toxicity and price and studying the possibilities of recycling and designing whenever possible the processes with the use of renewable energy. In this approach, each AR is processed with physical, chemical and/or thermal methods to achieve bioactive substances, organic and inorganic materials to be used in advanced processes in comparison with other similar commercial ones. Furthermore, thermal modifications of AR achieve “Zero CO2” energy, competitive with other forms of energy less environmentally benign, to fight against Climate Change, based on principles of Sustainable Development and Circular Economy, with economic and industrial benefits and ideally “zero waste” developments. Furthermore, the multivalorization of RA considering several scenarios, with mass and energy balances allows the design of different options towards future fluctuations in market prices of derivatives and pilot and industrial developments.