SW-3 :: Ensure efficient use of natural resources

The Swedish vision is to be the leading nation on resource smart use of materials by 2030. Swedish households and industries are in the front in an international perspective, with respect to reuse of material in waste.
Natural resources may be materials or substances extracted for use in products or used “as such”. They can also be land and water resources which can be exploited for our need of space to build on, for recreational purposes, for food production and much more. As people buy and dispose of more and more products and as services becomes more expensive than even more advanced new products, little is repaired and reused by people. Re-use relies much upon industrial recycling. Land and water is exploited as populations and economies grow. The challenges related to efficient use of natural resources need, probably more than most challenges, integrated approaches and are to a great extent related to human behaviour and social sciences as well as to industry. Sweden has good opportunities to find innovative solutions for sustainable and “resource smart” use of materials.
Following the conceptual model of INSPIRATION, specific research topics marked “SH” originate in stakeholder interviews and workshop. Those marked “IA” originate in the general research goals identified in the Swedish Research and Innovation Agenda – “Resource-Efficient Material Utilization: Renewing Swedish Excellence”. There are also some common research needs identified marked with “CN”.
• How to provide innovative and resource efficient production and business models and methods for sustainable resource recovery? (IA)
• What Bedrock types could crushed replace natural gravel in different applications and where in Sweden you can find these bedrocks (SH)
• How to assess the intrinsic value of the environment, e.g. the value of nature in areas sparsely populated (today) in comparison to densely populated areas or the value of nature for today’s population versus future generations? (SH)
Why? More research and development on these demands are still needed to facilitate resources and material conservation in production processes over a product’s life cycle. It is important to create value based on function rather than selling new products. Balancing multifunctional use of many natural resources, for example combining recreation and forestry, is fundamental for both people’s well-being and sound business models.
Natural Capital
• How to increase efficiency and sustainability in the use of forestry and agricultural resources? (CN)
• How bedrock types when crushed could be used in end products (ballast, industrial material) and replace natural gravel in different applications and where in Sweden you can find these bedrocks? (SH)
• How to develop combined novel pre-treatment and metallurgical operations, to make full use of ore concentrates, scrap and residues in order to maximize the economic outcome and minimize the environmental impact of the entire process chain? (SH)
Why? Increased knowledge from research on how to apply economic theories and methods (including cost-benefit analysis) to questions related to different goods and services from our natural resources is necessary for a sustainable development and for a cost efficient adaptation to climate change.
Land Management
• How to achieve sustainable soil management for efficient food production? (SH)
• What are the effects of recreation on human health and economic aspects of multiple uses of forests under the influence of climate change? (CN)
• How the inclusion of reuse as an opportunistic component can be used in industrial maintenance strategies (IA)
Why? There is still a great need of increased knowledge on how to balance the demand from society to the natural capital. Development of new methods and how to implement measures for a secure and sustainable development using the natural capital in a resource efficient way, is highly needed due to urbanisation, present life-styles and climate change.
Net Impact
• What are the socioeconomic impacts of strong environmental requirements in public procurement? (IA)
• What policy instruments can be used for stimulating the introduction of products on the market that are easily reused, repaired and recycled? (IA)
• How can development of recycling technology and efficient processes be used for sustainable resource recovery? (IA)
• How to develop methods for optimizing the sorting of data from the recycling process to produce and sell statistical overviews? (IA)
• How to do evaluations of the pros and cons of further developing the Ecodesign Directive? (IA)
• How to achieve changes in human behaviour, e.g. consumption patterns (driving forces, motivation, social and psychological effects)? (SH) (IA)
Why? Today’s use of the natural resources still needs to be accompanied by an increased knowledge of how to generate strategies and measures for increased resource efficiency, decreased environmental pressure and improved businesses. Steering and governance processes are important for an efficient use of natural resources and to manage potential conflicts. By further research on how to apply a systems perspective on production activities and consumption patterns, improvements of resource efficiency and avoidance of negative effects of exploiting land and other resources, can be achieved. Environmental ethics and taking long term responsibility for “new” solutions and products is also important.