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19 November 2010

Are clean technologies really that clean?

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Autodesk sustainability chief warns green businesses need to face up to their "dirty secret"

Clean tech firms such as solar panel manufacturers and wind turbine companies are compromising their sustainability claims by failing to account for the environmental impact of the materials they use.

Rare metals, including lithium, neodymium and gallium, are commonly used to develop clean technologies such as solar photovoltaic panels and batteries, but these materials are increasingly scarce and currently have very low recycling rates.

According to Lynelle Cameron, director of sustainability at design software company Autodesk, the failure to minimise the environmental impact of low-carbon technologies is now so prevalent that many clean technologies and green buildings cannot justifiably claim that they are "sustainable".

Cameron told BusinessGreen that architects and designers are increasingly keen to use more sustainable materials for buildings and clean technologies, but are unable to access information covering the whole lifecycle, from extraction to disposal, that is required to select the best materials.

In an attempt to create more sustainable clean tech, Autodesk last week signed a deal with Granta, a spin-off from Cambridge University that holds detailed information on almost every material in the world. Through the partnership the company is aiming to supply information on different materials' impacts through the company's modelling software.


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