Closed-Loop Manufacturing

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Closed-loop manufacturing is an approach that aims to eliminate waste by reusing and recycling materials within the production process. In a closed-loop system, materials are kept in a continuous cycle, minimizing waste generation and reducing reliance on virgin resources.

Impact on climate action

Closed-Loop Manufacturing within Industrial Resource Efficiency advances climate action by minimizing waste, conserving resources, and reducing emissions throughout the production process. By continuously recycling materials and optimizing resource utilization, this innovation fosters sustainability, mitigates environmental impact, and promotes a circular economy, contributing to global efforts to combat climate change.

Underlying
Technology

  • Waste Reduction and Recycling: Companies implement strategies to reduce waste generation and maximize the recycling of materials within the production process.
  • Design for Disassembly: Products are designed to be easily disassembled and recycled at the end of their life, ensuring that materials can be recovered and reused.
  • Remanufacturing and Refurbishment: Used products and components are remanufactured or refurbished to extend their lifespan and reduce the need for new production.
  • Circular Economy Principles: Closed-loop manufacturing is based on the principles of the circular economy, which aims to eliminate waste and keep resources in circulation.

TRL : 6-8 (depending on the specific technology or concept)

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Advanced Recycling Technologies: Innovations in recycling technologies, such as chemical recycling and enzymatic recycling, are enabling the recovery of high-quality materials from waste streams, making closed-loop manufacturing more feasible.
  • Design for Circularity: Companies are increasingly adopting design for circularity principles, where products are designed from the outset to be easily disassembled and recycled.
  • Digital Platforms for Material Exchange: Digital platforms can facilitate the exchange of recycled materials and components between businesses, enabling closed-loop manufacturing at a larger scale.
  • Reverse Logistics Optimization: Efficient reverse logistics systems are essential for collecting and transporting used products and materials for recycling and reuse in closed-loop manufacturing.

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Loop Industries:
    • Technology Enhancement: Loop Industries specializes in developing advanced recycling technologies for creating high-quality PET plastic resin from waste plastic feedstocks. Their proprietary technology, called Infinite LoopTM, breaks down PET plastics into their base monomers, which can then be polymerized back into virgin-quality PET.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Loop Industries’ technology allows for the creation of food-grade quality PET plastic from waste materials, offering a closed-loop solution for plastic packaging. Their process aims to reduce plastic pollution and reliance on fossil fuels while promoting a circular economy for plastics.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Loop Industries serves industries reliant on PET plastics for packaging, including beverage, food, personal care, and household goods sectors. Their closed-loop manufacturing approach offers brands and manufacturers a sustainable alternative to virgin plastics, reducing environmental impact and supporting circular economy initiatives.
  • MUD Jeans:
    • Technology Enhancement: MUD Jeans is a sustainable denim brand that operates on a closed-loop manufacturing model for denim production. They utilize recycled and organic cotton, as well as innovative dyeing and finishing processes, to minimize environmental impact throughout the denim lifecycle.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: MUD Jeans’ closed-loop manufacturing model enables the recycling and repurposing of denim materials at the end of their life. Customers can return their worn-out jeans to MUD Jeans, which are then recycled into new denim products, closing the loop on denim production.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: MUD Jeans serves environmentally conscious consumers seeking sustainable and ethical denim products. Their closed-loop manufacturing approach appeals to individuals and organizations committed to reducing textile waste and promoting circular fashion.
  • Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Make Fashion Circular initiative:
    • Technology Enhancement: The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Make Fashion Circular initiative is a collaborative effort aimed at transforming the fashion industry towards a circular economy model. The initiative brings together stakeholders from across the fashion value chain to drive systemic change through innovation, collaboration, and circular design principles.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: The Make Fashion Circular initiative focuses on rethinking the entire fashion system, from design and production to consumption and disposal. It advocates for closed-loop manufacturing practices, including material recycling, product leasing, and sharing platforms, to minimize waste and maximize resource efficiency.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: The Make Fashion Circular initiative engages stakeholders across the fashion industry, including brands, retailers, manufacturers, designers, policymakers, and consumers. Its holistic approach to circular fashion addresses the environmental and social challenges associated with the linear fashion model, promoting sustainability and resilience in the industry.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • University of Cambridge:
    • Research Focus: The University of Cambridge is actively involved in research on Closed-Loop Manufacturing, focusing on developing sustainable production processes and circular supply chains that minimize waste and maximize resource efficiency.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves combining principles of design for disassembly, remanufacturing, and recycling with advanced manufacturing technologies to create closed-loop systems where materials and components are continuously reused or recycled.
    • End-use Applications: The University of Cambridge’s work has applications in various industries, including automotive, aerospace, and electronics. For example, they’re researching advanced manufacturing techniques such as additive manufacturing and laser processing for producing parts with improved recyclability and remanufacturability.
  • Delft University of Technology (TU Delft):
    • Research Focus: TU Delft conducts cutting-edge research on Closed-Loop Manufacturing, exploring innovative approaches for designing products, processes, and business models that support circularity and resource efficiency.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves integrating engineering, materials science, and sustainability principles to develop closed-loop solutions that minimize environmental impact and maximize economic value throughout the product lifecycle.
    • End-use Applications: TU Delft’s work finds applications in consumer goods, packaging, and construction. For instance, they’re researching modular design strategies for consumer electronics and building materials that facilitate easy disassembly, repair, and component reuse.
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):
    • Research Focus: MIT is a leader in research on Closed-Loop Manufacturing, focusing on developing transformative technologies and business models that enable closed-loop systems in manufacturing and supply chains.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves leveraging digital technologies, data analytics, and automation to optimize resource flows, improve material recovery, and enable real-time tracking and monitoring of products and materials throughout their lifecycle.
    • End-use Applications: MIT’s work has applications in automotive, healthcare, and renewable energy. For example, they’re researching closed-loop manufacturing processes for lithium-ion batteries, where spent batteries are disassembled, recycled, and remanufactured into new battery cells, reducing the need for raw materials and minimizing waste.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Closed-loop manufacturing is being implemented by various companies, particularly in industries with high-value materials, such as electronics and automotive manufacturing. For example, Apple has implemented closed-loop manufacturing for some of its products, recovering materials like aluminum and rare earth metals from used devices.