Improving resource efficiency to address climate change by observing nature

Conference Dates

June 19-24, 2016


This presentation will discuss the climate change challenge and how it needs to be addressed by closing the resource loop. More specifically, a parallel will be drawn between what we have done since the beginning of the industrial era and what nature can teach us on addressing waste recovery. We will see that nature, by design, reutilizes all the resources since the resources on the planet are finite: there is no incoming feed of new material from the Universe to replace what has been consumed. However, energy is abundant, free and available everywhere through solar radiation. This is why evolution was more favorable to systems that could work together at recycling all atoms, without primarily favoring the energy efficiency of those systems. This is in direct contrast to our industrialized world where energy has a cost, because it is resource–derived, which forces us to be primarily energy efficient. In most cases, recovering waste requires work to reorganize the matter and our focus on energy efficiency immediately discards any attempts or processes that would require energy to convert waste.

Billions of years of evolution show that the best and yet most efficient system for closing the loop of carbon requires energy and is called photosynthesis. Perhaps this tells us that the “holy grail” technology everybody is looking for, which would use minimal energy to recycle material, might not be possible. Certainly, this should guide our approach towards recycling.

Please click Additional Files below to see the full abstract.

This document is currently not available here.