In 2015, the United Nations established 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved by 2030. In pursuit of the 12th of these goals — "Responsible Consumption and Production" — Mitsubishi Electric is drawing on decades of manufacturing experience to implement several sustainability initiatives. For example, the company is recycling high-quality plastics to reduce the amount of waste produced throughout the life cycle of its products, as well as developing antifouling coating technologies that extend product lifespans.
Rethinking Consumption Habits of Limited Resources
The era of mass production and mass consumption came to an end in the 1980s and 1990s, when nations around the world turned to recycling in an effort to make more effective use of their limited resources. Since then, the public sector has enacted and implemented a variety of environmentally friendly laws and policies, while widespread grassroots initiatives have promoted sustainable consumption among individuals. However, current efforts still fall short of what is needed.
The 12th Sustainable Development Goal promoted by the UN — "Responsible Consumption and Production" — is a call to people around the world to face this problem head-on and step up efforts to meet a number of specific targets by 2030.
When it comes to resource wastage, one of the most frequently mentioned issues is that of food loss and waste. According to the UN Environment Program (UNEP), roughly 30% of the food produced worldwide goes to waste every year. The problem is compounded by the fact that discarded food generates carbon dioxide — a major contributor to global warming — when decomposing, setting off a vicious chain reaction. This is why one of the specific targets of SDG12 is to "by 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses."
Other targets of SDG12 include the reduction of waste through recycling and reuse, as well as the responsible management of chemicals and waste throughout the life cycle of a product, from planning and manufacturing to consumption and, finally, disposal. Achieving these targets will significantly mitigate environmental impacts to the Earth’s atmosphere, water, and soil.
Promoting Waste Reduction as a Manufacturer
Mitsubishi Electric is promoting several initiatives in an effort to adopt more responsible methods of consumption and production. One such initiative is the introduction of a "closed-loop system," which is designed to minimize the amount of waste sent to landfills. It involves collecting products that have cycled out of use in order to recycle or refurbish their parts. Since 2010, Mitsubishi Electric has been recycling high-quality plastics that are sufficiently durable and have the right colors to be incorporated into new home appliances.
One of the original members of this project explained why the company decided to start recycling high-quality plastic, saying, "Mitsubishi Electric manufactures products that use a lot of plastic, such as air conditioners and refrigerators, so collecting and recycling that plastic is the right course of action for us as a socially responsible company."
The company experimented with how to best implement the recycling initiative, even developing from scratch a proprietary technology for sorting plastic for recycling. As a result, Mitsubishi Electric’s recycling rate for high-quality plastic is now as high as 80%, up from just 6% in 2010. In other words, collecting 120 used air conditioners provides the company with enough recyclable plastic to produce 96 new units.
In addition to conducting high-quality plastic recycling, Mitsubishi Electric is also developing antifouling coating technologies in the name of responsible production. The company has applied these thin coatings to plastics and other raw materials used in its air conditioners, duct ventilation fans, lighting fixtures, refrigerators, and a variety of other products. Because materials treated with these coatings accumulate less grime, the products are easier to maintain and can be used for a longer period of time, which in turn helps to reduce waste.
Manufacturing is about more than just product creation. The manufacturer also bears the responsibility to ensure that its products can be used for a long time at a consistent standard of cleanliness and performance. This is just one example of how Mitsubishi Electric is proudly upholding its corporate philosophy.
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