Even on a personal level, we can all reduce, reuse and recycle. Mottainai in Japan is a concept that calls us to express gratitude, to respect our resources and to cut waste.
Wangari Maathai - Kenyan Environmentalist
The attendees at the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) held in Egypt in November 2022 had much on their plates. Member states worked to reach an agreement to deliver action on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, build resilience, adapt to accelerating climate change, and finance climate action for developing states. There is no time to waste.
COP26 held a year earlier in Scotland pushed the agenda forward with about 200 countries compromising over building blocks for a low-carbon pathway. There has been progress since then, including a historical US climate bill that will invest $369 billion in renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction. A global energy crisis triggered by the invasion of Ukraine and frequent extreme weather have increased the urgency of what needs to be done.
Experts are on the same page about the need for more innovation, collaboration, and solidarity to achieve this green transition.
However, society may be able to add another important value.
That is the concept of “Mottainai,” a phrase originally from Japan and disseminated by Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai. It captures a simple principle to decarbonize our future, meaning “don’t waste.”
Maathai, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, introduced the word as a slogan for environmental protection at the 2009 United Nations Summit on Climate Change.
What she said then has never been truer: “Even on a personal level, we can all reduce, reuse and recycle. Mottainai in Japan is a concept that calls us to express gratitude, to respect our resources and to cut waste.” Mottainai is a worldview which reflects Japan’s history and culture: an island relatively poor in resources with a perception of seeking harmony with, rather than dominating, nature.
Compromising over building blocks
for a low-carbon pathway
The US’s largest
climate investment to date
The earth cannot tolerate the current speed of production and consumption. The silver lining is that markets and technological solutions are emerging day by day to enable a circular economy that has at its core the frugal Mottainai spirit.
To reduce the overall use of resources, particularly by saving on electricity and recycling materials from plastics to metals, clothes to batteries, as much as possible, Yokogawa, a leading tech company in Japan, embodies this spirit of Mottainai. It wants to demonstrate this spirit on a large scale. The company believes reducing waste is not something individuals or companies can achieve alone, but something the entire society must engage in. To this end, it has been working with customers and partners on ways to co-innovate better solutions that minimize the environmental impact of using resources and energy.
Through our solution, we can maximize the discharge capacity of used batteries, increasing the amount of energy stored in a safe manner. Our goal is to maximize the value of renewable energy to achieve a decarbonized society.
Hitoshi Nara - President and Chief Executive Officer, Yokogawa Electric Corporation
Batteries are considered the core technology to realize renewable energy. Large-scale battery storage capacities are vital to stabilize grids, storing excess energy when supply is low or when natural energy power generation falls. In fact, some electricity generated by renewables is unused and simply thrown away due to a lack of adequate storage space.
There are many types of batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are among the most popular given their use in EVs and their vast potential in other applications. For instance, used lithium-ion batteries which no longer meet EV performance standards still have the chance for a “second life.” They can provide backup power storage in residential, commercial, and industrial uses as well as for the grid. One analysis forecast that by 2030, three-quarters of all EV batteries will be reused and provide as many as 100GW hours per year.
Generally speaking, the typical 40-foot-container-sized storage battery module used on the grid stores 1,000 to 2,000 battery cells for EVs. The hassle of finding, collecting, measuring the capacity of, and connecting these old batteries to a single system creates a bottleneck. That also entails transporting old batteries from many different places, which leads to additional cost. Before old EV batteries can start their “second life,” it is critical to diagnose their capacity and deterioration state to determine if they can be reused. In order to do so, it is necessary to bundle used battery cells that are in roughly the same condition.
Yokogawa seeks to provide such diagnostic technologies for used EVs, using its core measurement competency, industry-leading expertise and know-how developed through years of working with storage batteries from various manufacturers. Recently, Yokogawa obtained a patent on a diagnostic algorithm that analyzes storage batteries. By ascertaining the usable capacity with great accuracy, these batteries can be used over a wider recharge/discharge range and with effective cell balancing while in operation. This maximizes system capacity and reduces non-operating losses.
“Through our solution, we can maximize the discharge capacity of used batteries, increasing the amount of energy stored in a safe manner. Our goal is to maximize the value of renewable energy to achieve a decarbonized society,” explains Yokogawa. “We believe we have strong potential to contribute to this field with our diagnostic and energy management technology.”
Another example from Yokogawa is its revolutionary “cardboard cabinet,” an innovative solution designed to reduce waste and improve resource recycling by improving storage, transportation, and loading efficiency."
These reusable cabinets are reinforced by a folded paper structure, which makes them extremely durable and capable of withstanding shocks while reducing vibrations by 70% or more. In turn, this eliminates the need for individual boxes and plastic packing material for shipment. From folded structures to corrugated cardboard, the cabinets are made with paper material and reusable plastic screws—with no nails or large staples—which makes them easy to recycle and process. These cabinets also save storage space and time for packing and unpacking, not only at the customers’ sites but also for Yokogawa. Using the cardboard cabinets, Yokogawa has been able to recover old equipment to be repurposed at facilities such as engineering test centers, drastically reducing investment in purchasing new equipment.
The number of trucks and flights needed to transport the equipment to Yokogawa’s factory and warehouse has also been significantly reduced, leading to emission reduction here as well. The patented cabinet is one of its kind and is being developed for use outside of Japan.
From reducing waste in transportation to designing the future of reusable EV batteries, Yokogawa aims to create optimal solutions that minimize resource use, limit waste and place recycling at the center of consumption and production models, reflecting the Mottainai spirit.
And Yokogawa’s passionate desire to achieve sustainability together with society is expressed in its vision statement "Through autonomy and symbiosis, Yokogawa will create sustainable value and lead the way in solving global issues."
Let’s come together and not waste time, energy, nor materials to make a more sustainable world.