In recent years, the refractory industry has embraced the concept of circularity. Circularity is the principle that materials and resources should be used and reused to minimise waste and maximise efficiency. This is in contrast to the traditional linear model of production, in which materials are extracted from the earth, used once, and discarded.
There are many reasons why the refractory industry is moving towards circularity. A circular business model helps companies to maximise resource use, while extending product lifespan.
Additionally, circularity is good for the environment. Producing refractories using recycled materials instead of virgin raw materials reduces emissions and conserves energy. Finally, circularity aligns with the goals of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The SDGs are a set of 17 goals adopted by all UN Member States in 2015 with the aim of making the world a more sustainable place by 2030. Some of the goals relevant to the refractory industry include Goal 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), Goal 15 (Life on Land), and Goal 17 (Partnerships for the Goals). Achieving circularity in refractories is critical to meeting these goals.
The 3Rs of circularity
To achieve circularity, businesses must embrace what is known as the "3Rs": reduce, reuse, and recycle. Let's take a closer look at each of these 3Rs as they relate to refractories.
Reduce: Refractory manufacturers can reduce their impact by reducing their reliance on virgin raw materials and their energy and water consumption during production.
Reuse: Another way businesses can cut down on waste is by reusing materials whenever possible. For example, used refractory brick can often be revived through a process called reconditioning. Reconditioning involves removing any residual carbon or other harmful elements from used brick so that it can be reused in blast furnaces or other high-temperature applications. Not only does reuse extend the lifespan of material goods, but it also reduces emissions associated with manufacturing new products from scratch.
Recycle: Finally, businesses can recycle used products at end-of-life instead of disposing of them in landfills. Recycling provides an opportunity to recapture some of the embodied energy in used products and prevents environmental pollution. Some commonly recycled refractory materials include insulating firebrick, and basic brick.
While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for achieving circularity, all businesses must operate with reduced impact if we are to achieve sustainable development by 2030. The 3Rs provide a framework for refractory companies to reduce their reliance on virgin raw materials, reuse products whenever possible, and recycle at end-of-life. Implementing these principles will help businesses save money, conserve resources, and prevent environmental pollution— ultimately making our world a more sustainable place for everyone