More than simply recycling, circular economy is about capturing a larger part of the value that is typically lost in our traditional linear economic model. For Nynas, a circular approach is one of the things that separates them from regular oil companies.
What is a circular economy?
Today’s manufacturing largely takes raw materials from nature and turns them into new products, which at the end of their lifespan are dumped into landfills, incinerated or at best recycled.
In a circular economy, on the other hand, as much as possible is reused, re-manufactured or, as a last resort, recycled back into a raw material or used as a source of energy. By identifying where waste is most prevalent in their value chains, companies can learn to close those loops to get more from the resources and materials they use.
Considering the impact of a product over the whole life cycle, including what happens at the end of its service life, is important. Only looking at the production or raw material provides just a part of the picture. The impact contribution from the use phase can be a significant share of the whole.
Nynas and circularity
Most oil companies turn their crude oil into fossil fuels, which are then burned. Nynas transforms crude oil into high-quality bitumen and naphthenic specialty oils that bring long-term value to its customers and in many cases are 100% reusable or recyclable. In many of their uses, Nynas products contribute to sustainable development even if produced from crude-based material. Lifetime, efficiency, reusability and recyclability are connected to life cycle value and linked to resource and energy efficiency. The focus on circularity is in line with Nynas' ambition to assess the whole product life cycle. The possibility for circular product flows can substantially reduce a product's footprint.
Nynas recognizes the need to continue innovating and developing products that lower the environmental impact, looking at their whole life cycle, and we continue to work with measures such as energy optimization and reduction of transport emissions to limit its footprint. Design for recycling becomes increasingly important. Reviewing raw materials and, for example, excluding toxic components and components that cannot be reprocessed, or that deteriorate or degrade the quality of the rest of the components.
For Nynas, sustainable products must meet or exceed the performance requirements in their particular applications, thereby ideally contributing to its customers' sustainable development ambitions. The products can be based on crude, renewable or circular raw material. Increasing the presence of existing products in circular product flows is essential for the efficient use of finite resources, and it is the best way to reduce the amount of waste that is still increasingly being generated, or to avoid emissions from the incineration of materials, which is sometimes the end point.
Examples of Nynas products where possibilities exist for reuse/recycling:
- Transformer oils
- Industrial lubricating oils and metalworking fluids based on neat oils
- Bitumen in road asphalt
Other examples from circular initiatives by customers or in related industries:
- Recovery of used tyres through material reuse or carbon black generation through pyrolysis
- Recovery and reuse of steel and copper from scrapped transformers
- Rerefining of used engine, hydraulic and other lubricating oils
- Mechanical or chemical recycling of plastics for use in polymer, chemical or refining/fuel industries
According to the World Economic Forum, four material categories show particular promise to demonstrate circular viability:
► Golden Oldies: Includes paper, PET, glass and steel. These are well-established, high-volume recyclates with a remaining purity challenge such as quality loss and ink contamination in paper and cardboard.
► High Potentials: Includes polymers and other high volume materials that currently lack systematic reuse solutions. Fragmented formulas, supply chains and treatment technologies pose challenges to increased collection rates.
► Rough Diamonds: Large-volume by-products of manufacturing processes, such as carbon dioxide and food waste.
► Future Blockbusters: Innovative materials with breakthrough potential, either by improving materials productivity (e.g. 3D printing) or having usage cycles that are fully restorative by design and intention (bio-based materials).