Society is at the very beginning of redesigning and reimagining the materials used in products and structures, as well as the means by which they can be reduced, reused and recycled. At circa 12 gigatons of emissions per year, the things we manufacture place a heavy burden on our atmosphere. Steel is the largest emission source by category at 4 gigatons. Cement is followed closely behind at 3 gigatons. The production of steel and cement today is dominated by China and its breakneck speed of construction. For these two mega industries to decarbonize, the cost of new approaches and technologies must make sense for the developing world.

The manufacture of plastics, chemicals, paper, aluminium, glass and apparel all use fossil fuels for direct heat. Many of these goods end up incinerated, producing even more emissions. We make materials that have become just as essential to modern life as electricity is. We’re not going to give them up, if anything, we’ll be using more of them as the world’s population grows and gets richer. We therefore must find a way to square the circle and produce these materials without making the climate unlivable. The key components that need to be addressed immediately are steel, plastic and concrete.

Sample Sectors of Interest (not exclusive to the below)

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Every refrigerator and air conditioner contains chemical refrigerants that absorb and release heat, making it possible to chill food and keep buildings and vehicles cool. As a result, huge volumes of CFCs and HCFs are in circulation. Their capacity to warm the atmosphere is one to nine thousand times greater than that of CO2, depending on their chemical composition.

Ranking and Results by 2050 (Onshore)

89.74 Gigatons of reduced CO2


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Decarbonizing limestone causes roughly 60% of the cements industries emissions. The remainder is from energy use. Manufacturing a ton of cement requires the equivalent energy of burning four hundred pounds of coal. To reduce emissions the crucial strategy is to change the composition of cement. Using fly ash, as an example, could offset 5% of emissions.

Ranking and Results by 2050 (Onshore)

6.69 Gigatons of reduced CO2


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The average American withdraws ninety eight gallons of water per day. Two technologies are key: low flush toilets and water-efficient washing machines. Water efficient appliances can reduce water use in homes by 45%. Using low flow taps and showerheads could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 4.6 gigatons by 2050.

Ranking and Results by 2050 (Onshore)

4.61 Gigatons of reduced CO2


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Our primary material for fabrication is undoubtedly plastic. The polymers that exist in plastic are everywhere in nature, and 90% of plastics could be derived from plants or biomass. If bioplastics were to capture 49% of the plastic market by 2050 this would avoid 4.3 gigatons of emissions.

Ranking and Results by 2050 (Onshore)

4.3 Gigatons of reduced CO2


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Household Recycling

As quickly as the world is urbanizing, urban waste is growing faster. With about 50% of recycled materials coming from households, if the average worldwide recycling rate of both industrial and household increases to 65% of total recyclable waste, this could avoid 2.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

Ranking and Results by 2050 (Onshore)

2.77 Gigatons of reduced CO2


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Industrial Recycling

At least half of waste is generated outside of households. Enhancing the exchange of recyclable and reusable goods is essential. We need new technologies to depolymerize, dealloy, delaminate, devulcanize and decoat materials. We also need to swap out virgin materials with recycled ones.

Ranking and Results by 2050 (Onshore)

2.77 Gigatons of reduced CO2


Source: Drawdown the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming


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