Safe and Sustainable by Design: a prerequisite for achieving a circular economy

Safe by Design (SbD) is a concept based on the consideration and minimisation of uncertainties and risks to human health and the environment from an early stage of the innovation process and throughout the lifecycle of the innovation in question. The concept has previously been applied in the construction industry and was subsequently further developed in research related to nanosafety. SbD is primarily aimed at industry actors, and a focus area in nanosafety has been to extend the concept to include the role of public authorities.

This work has led to a new approach called the Safe(r) Innovation Approach (SIA) and consists of two components. (1) that industry actors take into account the inherent safety risks of nanomaterials at an early stage of the innovation process (i.e., SbD), and 2) that public authorities are prepared for the inherent challenges of assessing the risks of nanomaterials and nanotechnology (Regulatory Preparedness). The approach also includes aspects of lifecycle analysis and socio-economic analysis, as well as a new concept entailing so-called “Trusted Environments”, which are intended to facilitate communication and the exchange of information between innovators and authorities. As SweNanoSafe has previously reported, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has recently published a report describing SIA and how industry actors and public authorities can work together to reduce the uncertainties and risks surrounding new nanomaterials and nanotechnologies.

The next step in the work around SbD and SIA is to incorporate sustainability aspects, i.e., Safe and Sustainable by Design (SSbD). SSbD is a prerequisite for a sustainable circular economy. The addition regarding sustainability aims to take into account the UN Sustainable Development Goals and to extend the concept so that it can be applied to increasingly complex and advanced materials. The goal is to establish a systematic and comprehensive strategy that makes it possible to simultaneously consider sustainability and safety aspects very early in the development of new materials and products. This establishes the basis for the reuse of safe materials and products in a circular economy.

For SSbD to succeed and be implementable in industrial and regulatory processes, accepted and standardised testing methods and harmonised data management systems are essential.

Several ongoing European projects focus on the development and implementation of SSbD in the development of nanotechnology, among them HARMLESS, SABYDOMA, SAbyNA, SbD4Nano, ASINA, DIAGONAL and SUNSHINE. The development and implementation of SSbD is also a priority within the European Commission’s Chemicals Strategy.

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Further information and links:

The OECD report:  Moving Towards a Safe(r) Innovation Approach (SIA) for More Sustainable Nanomaterials and Nano-enabled Products

For an overview of the European Safe and Sustainable by Design project, click here.

For information about SweNanoSafe and the global sustainability goals, click here.

Safe and Sustainable by Design is a priority in the European Commission’s Chemicals Strategy and Action Plan, and is part of the ongoing planning of a European Partnership for Assessment of Risk from Chemicals.

Safe by Design is a priority for the Dutch Government.

You can download Safe and Sustainable by Design: a prerequisite for achieving a circular economy – A report from SweNanoSafe’s workshop (2022:1) here.

Uppdaterad av:

KM 2022-03-14