When I took on the position of CEO in 2019, I did so with pride. Taking a leadership role in a company whose core purpose is so closely aligned to my own – to play a part in protecting our planet – was very meaningful to me. I am pleased to report that Renewi contributed to this purpose through the continuous improvement of our key sustainability objectives. Last year 64.7% of the waste we processed was recycled or prepared for recycling, and 25.9% was used as fuel for energy recovery. Through recycling and recovery, we play a key role in helping Europe reduce its carbon emissions, as production using secondary materials generates lower emissions.
Over the past 12 months, we have continued to invest in environmentally friendly trucks and today 48.5% of our fleet comprises Euro 6 vehicles. However, we continue to move towards a fleet that is even greener, with a goal to reach zero emissions through the use of electric trucks; in August 2020 our very first electric trucks will start collections in Amsterdam
This year we are launching our sustainability five-year cycle. Our purpose, to protect the world by giving new life to used materials, remains the same, as does our vision to be the leading waste-to-product company. Our three sustainability pillars have also been further advanced in our new sustainability strategy. First, we will enable the circular economy by turning the waste of our customers and our own waste into new raw materials and products. Second, we will reduce carbon emissions and waste, both within our business and beyond. And third, we care for people; we care for our 6,550 employees who have been recognised as delivering vital services to society. We care for our local communities and for our customers. An example where our commitment to care for people came to life was during the Covid-19 pandemic when we collaborated with a medical equipment supplier to collect used face-masks from hospitals, have them recycled through sterilisation, and return them for re-use by health workers. From these three sustainability pillars, we have developed six key objectives:
- Turn our customers’ waste into new products
This reduces carbon emissions in supply chains and counteracts the depletion of the world’s finite natural resources. The key metrics for this are the recycling rate and carbon avoidance level.
- Be a leader in clean and green waste collection
The collection of waste is essential and we aim to reduce the emissions of carbon, nitrogen and particulate matter that go with it, through the deployment of low- and ultimately zero-emission trucks, white-label collection and route optimisation.
- Reduce the carbon impact of our operations
By their nature, our operations reduce total carbon emissions elsewhere by returning materials for re-use. Nevertheless, we aim to reduce our own energy consumption where we can and increase our use of renewable energy.
- Positively impact our communities
In providing an essential service to our communities, as a regional champion of recycling and circularity, we seek to have a positive impact in the locations where we work by engaging closely with communities, supporting them and minimising any negative aspects of the work that we do.
- Deliver people home safe and well, every day
Safety is our first value and we continue to strive to improve our accident rates and avoid all serious incidents. In addition, we wish to support the health and mental wellbeing of all our employees.
- Make Renewi a more rewarding, diverse and inclusive working environment
We continue to build an engaged workforce that draws on a wide range of backgrounds, and give all employees the opportunity to thrive and achieve their potential within our organisation.
Each of these objectives has challenging targets set against them. Our commitment to deliver on all six of the targets outlined above, and by the very nature of what we do on a day-to-day basis, means that Renewi aligns with six of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
- Good health and wellbeing
Keeping employees safe and well is a key objective, and we have the same responsibility to local communities.
- Clean water and sanitation
One of our key treatment activities is cleaning waste water to make it available again.
- Affordable and clean energy
We lower our carbon footprint by using renewable energy and also sell green energy produced on site.
- Sustainable cities and communities
We reduce our carbon and other emissions in waste collection in cities and urban areas.
- Responsible consumption and production
We enable the circular economy, so support responsible consumption and production.
- Climate action
We take action to protect the climate by carbon avoidance and recycling waste instead of sending it for incineration or to landfill.
In addition, we continue our commitment with the UN Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, and have integrated its Ten Principles into our sustainability approach
A positive impact on society
For some time, Renewi has turned Europe’s climate and environmental challenges into an opportunity to improve its sustainability. We have taken active steps towards cleaner and greener operations and continue to make secondary raw materials available for use by companies across a number of sectors, while our business purpose supports the European Green Deal.
Moving forward, we plan to extend our reach by producing and supplying higher-quality secondary materials, which will enable our customers to reduce their consumption of primary materials. We will partner with customers to help them take their circularity to a new level, and by doing so play a part in bringing the circular economy to life.
Of course, we are already investing significantly in the circular economy. For example, we’re safely transporting asbestos-contaminated steel to Purified Metal Company, which will then convert the scrap into raw material for re-use in the steel industry; we have a similar arrangement to transport plastic waste to chemical recycling specialists, who turn it into oil for the production of new plastic products.
We’re also working to tackle the worldwide problem of mattress waste: in the Netherlands around 1.5 million mattresses are thrown away every year; Belgium discards around a million; in the UK this figure rises to about seven million; and, in the US, almost 20 million. With limited mattressrecycling facilities, mattresses are too often sent to incineration, losing the precious materials they are made from and causing additional carbon emissions. For example, only about 20% of mattresses discarded in the UK are recycled. So we’ve invested in RetourMatras, helping this Dutch mattress-recycling company to increase its processing capacity, as well using our trucks and drivers to transport mattresses to its recycling facilities. And as this is clearly a problem beyond the borders of the Netherlands, there is the potential for Renewi to establish additional partnerships for mattress recycling internationally.
“We will help customers take their circularity to a new level, and so we will play a part in bringing the circular economy to life”
I am grateful that we are in a position to act as a connecting link in the circular economy. Over the next 12 months and beyond, we will remain focused on making our own operations cleaner and greener by collecting waste using low-emission or zero-emission trucks, using white-label trucks without duplicating routes, making our buildings and operations more energy-efficient, and continuing to invest in advanced technology to produce the highest-quality secondary materials to support our customers in the production of sustainable products. I look forward to sharing our progress against our 2021 objectives in next year’s Sustainability Report.
Otto de Bont
Chief Executive Officer