Although waste may contain valuable raw materials that can be reused in the production stream, it can also pose a wide range of risks to the environment. We therefore consider it essential to either prevent or recycle as much of our waste as possible.
Our approach to waste and recycling
We aim to limit the loss of raw materials and reduce the impact of our waste disposal practices on ecosystems. To this end, we are working to lower our Waste Score, our key waste management indicator, by 5% by 2025 (2016 baseline).
We strive to prevent the generation of waste by, for instance, developing new production processes or optimizing existing ones. When prevention is not feasible, we do our best to recover materials or energy from the waste we generate. Our waste scoring system helps us support a circular economy. Waste separation makes it possible to recover and recycle raw materials, while unrecyclable waste is disposed of in an environmentally sustainable manner in line with the strictest waste disposal standards. In doing so, we take local legal regulations as well as the available disposal options into account.
Responsibility for the waste disposal process
As a generator of waste, we are responsible for the ultimate disposal of our waste and therefore choose our service providers with the utmost care, contractually stipulating disposal requirements. We conduct random audits to verify their compliance with our disposal standards, especially when it comes to hazardous waste.
Roles and responsibilities
Our Corporate Sustainability, Quality and Trade Compliance (SQ) function bears overall responsibility for our waste management and recycling practices. Additionally, our site EHS managers are responsible for implementing our requirements at the sites and for maintaining legal compliance with the applicable regulations. We have a Group-wide committee consisting of experts from SQ and our business sectors to coordinate our approach to waste management.
Waste management forms part of our Group-wide environmental management system, with 95 sites (2021: 90) certified to ISO 14001. In addition to undergoing external certification, we also conduct internal EHS audits to review our waste management practices. Moreover, we regularly host activities such as EHS forums and conferences to keep our local EHS managers and site directors up to date on the topic and to raise awareness.
Further information can be found under Environmental protection.
Our commitment: International guidelines and requirements
Our Group-wide EHS Waste Management Standard provides a consistent framework for waste management across all of our sites, defining organizational structures and minimum requirements. This standard also stipulates that all facilities document their waste by type and quantity and report these data to our SQ function.
Systematic waste reduction
We use a variety of methods for recycling, recovering and disposing of the waste we generate, each of which has a different impact on the environment. To systematically account for these effects, we have put in place a waste scoring system that allows us to compare the amount of waste our individual sites generate and track our various waste streams. In this system, our waste streams are broken down into five categories by percentage: landfilling, thermal disposal, waste-to-energy, recycling, and prevention. This percentage is then multiplied by a factor that increases based on the disposal method’s environmental impact. The total from each category is added together to yield our total Waste Score. Prevented waste is multiplied by a factor of zero, thus lowering the overall score.
Reducing the environmental impacts of waste
We are aiming to reduce our Waste Score by 5% by 2025 compared with 2016. To achieve this goal, we continuously examine our production processes and disposal methods to identify potential areas for improvement, an endeavor supported by the EHS units of the business sectors at each site. They regularly discuss best practices, share lessons learned across our sites and drive the transition to greener disposal methods. In 2022, we succeeded in reducing our total Waste Score by 8.8% relative to 2016.
The amount of waste we generated in 2022 increased, totaling 371 metric kilotons (2021: 214 metric kilotons). Soil, construction and demolition waste accounted for 53% of our total waste in 2022 (2021: 20%). Our Waste Score does not factor in this type of waste, which can rarely be avoided and must be discarded in accordance with clearly prescribed methods.
Promoting the circular economy
Through our ProMec (Progressive Material Economy) initiative at the Darmstadt site, we are promoting a sustainable, resource-efficient circular economy. We are refining our solvent recycling practices, thereby minimizing the adverse environmental impacts from the disposal of our production waste.
Together with the Technical University of Darmstadt (TU Darmstadt), we continue to develop a digital platform for the optimum use of waste and its avoidance. The project aims to bring together waste generators and specialized waste recyclers. Furthermore, it will be a platform for a secondary market.
Additionally, our Healthcare Green Teams community shares circular economy best practices. In 2022, we fostered a best practice sharing community, which led to the establishment of circular hubs at five manufacturing sites (Vevey and Aubonne in Switzerland, Guidonia and Ivrea in Italy and Darmstadt) to promote the exchange of unused materials and give them a second life.
Shifting from landfil to waste-to-energy
At our site in St. Louis, Missouri (USA) we employ waste-to-energy recovery for vast portions of our waste instead of landfilling it. As of the end of 2022, this applied to 1,310 metric tons (2021: 781). Furthermore, the site is planning to shift further waste streams from landfill to waste-to-energy recovery.