The challenge for the coming decades: material transition
Before the industrial revolution, many of the materials we used were of local and biological origin. Since the industrial revolution, cheap fossil fuels have enabled us to develop and trade special materials on a large scale, worldwide. Examples include mineral wool for insulating the building envelope and carbon composites for developing strong and lightweight structures.
The downside of the industrial revolution is the rapidly increasing global warming and the growing shortage of scarce earth materials. Because we often have to extract the materials, transport them all over the world and then purify, process and transport them again, materials are a major cause of climate warming. For a sector such as construction, this means that materials account for more than 30% of total CO2 emissions. In addition, more and more materials are becoming scarce. The raw materials for the production of electronics, PET, but also many products used in the construction industry, such as floor coverings, solar panels, fire-resistant additives and glass fibre, are coming under increasing economic and environmental pressure. We are getting rid of scarce earth materials in particular by mixing them into bulk materials. For example, 50% of all boron is used in glass wool insulation and glass fibres for the composite industry to make glass less fragile. This boron can only be recovered from the glass with a great deal of energy. Also, ores of less scarce earth materials such as aluminium have an increasingly lower content, which causes the already high CO₂ emissions for production to rise even further.
To break the above described trend, it is essential to use local biobased materials that are processed as little as possible. Also, these materials must be used in products that can be easily detached, reused and recycled.
NPSP´s contribution to the materials transition
NPSP is the front runner in making composites more sustainable. We are working on all fronts to reduce the environmental impact even further. We use natural raw materials and production techniques that are ahead of legislation and make products that last longer and generate less waste at a good price-quality ratio. You will recognise NPSP's environmentally friendly composites by their Nabasco® label.
The Nabasco® label guarantees that the product has been manufactured in an environmentally friendly as well as marketable manner.
Biobased, circular & local
NPSP uses as many local, natural fibres as possible such as flax, hemp and increasingly residual materials such as roadside grass, reed and recycled toilet paper. These fibres require considerably less energy to produce and fewer chemicals to bond to the binder. As a filler, NPSP uses lime extracted from the water of drinking water companies, instead of lime from mines. The drinking water companies are distracting this lime to soften the water and give washing machines and dishwashers a longer life. The resins we use are also based on residual flows from other industries. For example, resins are made from residues from biodiesel production, sugar production, paper production and even sewage treatment.
100% biobased and 100% based on residual materials does not yet mean that the product is recyclable at the end of its life. NPSP is working with its strategic partners on various forms of recycling. At the moment, the materials can be grinded and fully reused as filling material in new composites. We are also working on a higher-grade chemical recycling with which we expect to be able to separate the fibres and the resin and reuse both. We are also working on optimal recycling from the point of view of bio-based circularity, in which we allow micro-organisms to break down the biobased composites into nutrients for agriculture.
NPSP has commissioned a life cycle assessment (LCA) for a number of its products.