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Sustainability check for nanoproducts

Sustainability check for nanoproducts

In the context of the current debate about the opportunities and risks of nanotechnological applications, their possible contributions to sustainable development are often controversially discussed. With the Nano Sustainability Check, the Öko-Institut is now presenting an instrument with which a uniform assessment of the sustainability potential of nanoproducts is possible. This means that for the first time a uniform grid is available to identify environmental pollution or relief, but also risks and challenges for the market launch of products with nanomaterials.

“With the nano sustainability check, companies have a tool at their disposal that enables data-based sustainability analyzes to be carried out as early as the development phase of products,” explains Martin Möller, an expert in the sustainability assessment of nano products at the Öko-Institut. In this way it can be evaluated at an early stage how the nanoproduct is positioned in comparison to non-nanoproducts and where there are opportunities for optimization, but also opportunities through the use of the product. The focus of the sustainability review is an evaluation grid according to which nanoproducts can be analyzed in comparison to a so-called reference product, i.e. a product without nanomaterials. Methodologically, this assessment is based on the life cycle analysis Prosa (Product Sustainability Assessment) of the Öko-Institut. Key indicators for analyzing possible environmental and sustainability risks are, for example, the CO2 footprint, energy efficiency, recyclability, possible accident aspects when using nanomaterials, occupational health and safety, benefit aspects and socio-economic effects. The results of this analysis are brought together in a comprehensive comparison of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and risks.

Both large companies and small and medium-sized companies could work with the nano sustainability check, ”Möller emphasizes. The case studies showed that the instrument can close knowledge gaps, identify any existing risks and develop suitable solution strategies. The check serves as an early warning system and makes an important contribution to the innovation process of nanoproducts. The analysis of two case studies shows that a differentiated assessment of a nano compared to a reference product is possible. Example “X-SEED” from BASF SE: Using nanoparticles in the hardening accelerator of concrete (photo) could save resources and energy in the production of concrete. This would significantly reduce the emission of climate-damaging greenhouse gases in the entire production chain and, in the future, save up to 2.7 million tons of CO2 per year in Europe. Example “pro.Glass Barrier 401” from Nanogate Industrial Solutions GmbH: The glass surfaces coated with nanoparticles lead to a longer service life for glass products with a high UV protection effect. The longer shelf life results in a 30 percent CO2 saving due to an overall lower use of energy.