The functional economy in the chemical industry: 8 case studies demonstrate efficiency and sustainability

Type of organisation or company
Language for original content
Project elaborated in partnership
Submitted by
CIRCE Foundation
Start/End date
Type of funding
Royal Haskoning DHV

Take Back Chemicals is a Belgian & Dutch initiative to study the applicability of chemical leasing to chemical industry. This business model aims to increase the effectiveness of the use of chemicals as well as to reduce waste from chemical use. Chemicals, in this business model, once spent by a particular firm are then sent back to be "regenerated" so as to be used again in the same or a similar chemical process. Some advantages:

  1. A reduction of chemical inputs from outside sources, as the spent chemicals will be regenerated to be used again.
  2. The property rights of the chemicals are modified. Instead of selling virgin chemicals and re-buying spent chemicals, the company that produces/distributes this chemical  leases the chemicals to the chemical user, who now pays for a service, i.e. the use of the chemical in its process. This creates an alignment of incentives: the volume of chemicals used is optimised by the producer who is granted access to the specific use of the chemical by the user. This alignment between producer and user leads to intensified partnership, with the aim of optimising the overall process.
Main results
  • For the time being, 3 different cases in Belgium and 5 in The Netherlands are evaluated. An adaptation of the actual production considering the new business model is evaluated on a conceptual level together with the procurement and technical department of the different partners.
  • A majority of industries are convinced of the importance and the need for finding options for waste free production and recognize the possibilities for the introduction of this new business model.
  • This concept aims to reach a waste-free production quality standard and gets the advantage of relief for the chemical user from regulatory tasks such as waste-handling legislation. The increased efficiency in chemical use and reduction of waste benefits the environment from a material and GHG point of view.