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Target #4: Reduce the carbon impact of our operations and grow towards 100% renewable energy

29 October 2020

Our aim is to reduce the carbon impact of our operations. Carbon and energy use are inextricably linked. For most organisations, carbon sustainability means energy use reduction and efficiency. For us the situation is more complex. Our main goal is to move our activities up the waste hierarchy ladder, creating more secondary products from waste. But the higher up we move, the more energy we will need for operating plants and machinery and for on-site transport. This is the same whether energy use is considered overall, or as an intensity ratio such as per tonne of waste managed.

While recycling and recovery activities have a carbon avoidance benefit, we acknowledge the need to reduce the carbon impact of our own operations as much as possible – hence its importance in our sustainability strategy. We want to achieve this mainly by investing in renewable energy production at our sites, displacing fossil energy use. We are investing in solar panel roofs, and are investigating the placement of wind turbines at our sites. Where this is not sufficient, we will purchase green energy. For this we aim to collaborate with frontrunner green energy providers. Another area of development is the electrification of our company car fleet. Renewi managers need to travel between our sites, many of which are remotely located far from public transport hubs – hence the need for company cars. Renewi has a fleet of about 800 cars, so the carbon impact is considerable. That’s why we encourage the use of electric and hybrid cars (fuelled by green energy). We have therefore made arrangements with lease car suppliers, and are also going to increase the number of charging stations at our sites.

Although we have identified energy efficiency as a challenging area for improvement, we will continue to invest in this. We have already conducted independent, external energy efficiency audits at our largest plants, and continue to pursue the outcomes and recommendations. Examples include replacing traditional lighting with LED lights, improving energy efficiency of our static and mobile plant, and replacing diesel motors and aggregates with efficient electrical ones. We will also promote efficient energy use behaviour.

Recycling and recovery activities result in carbon avoidance. For example:

  • Sorting centres and materials recycling facilities separate waste into individual components such as paper, card, plastics and metals. This allows these components to be used again in products, so avoiding the resource use and emissions associated with extraction and virgin raw material use. Waste is also diverted from incineration – another environmental advantage, as incineration also directly causes carbon emissions.

  • Mechanical biological treatment facilities shred residual waste and then dry it to produce a solid recovered fuel. This is used to power production and industrial processes, displacing fossil fuels and so resulting in an emissions avoidance benefit.

  • Organic treatment facilities such as anaerobic digestion plants and composting plants take food, green and other similar waste and turn it into green compost, reducing emissions associated with chemical and similar fertiliser production. Anaerobic digestion plants also produce green electricity directly. So while energy use may have increased from the reduction of waste to landfill and more sustainable methods, this is more than offset by the amount of carbon avoidance benefit obtained by recycling or recovering the waste instead. This is why we concentrate on carbon avoidance in the supply chain as a key measure.

Renewi’s renewable energy programme

Thousands of families, and the planet, benefit from Renewi’s clean energy production programme. Our Organics business transforms biogas into green electricity, which provides energy to over 15,000 households in the Amsterdam area.

Organics’ Amsterdam and Lelystad CHP (combined heat and power) production plants generate the energy. Every year Amsterdam’s wet digester system converts more than 100,000 tonnes of pre-processed food waste from its retail industry customers into 45,000 megawatt hours of electricity.

Lelystad’s dry digester uses 30,000 tonnes of household organic waste from the Flevoland municipalities to produce 4,000 megawatt hours annually. Organics sells its green electricity certificates from both locations into the grid via Amsterdam based energy broker Vandebron.

Our clean energy programme is an inspiring element in Renewi’s mission to enable the circular economy. “Organics’ contribution to the green energy effort is very important,” explains Business Line Organics Director Klaas van den Berg. “Our customers are delighted by this optimal conversion of their waste, and for Renewi this is a perfect example of our ambition to ‘waste no more’.”