Reduce carbon emissions and waste
Our operations result in a net carbon reduction. However, we are committed to reducing our own carbon footprint even more.
Globally, 2020 was the equal hottest year on record, tying with 2016. Overall, Earth’s average temperature has risen more than 1.2°C since the late 19th century. Human activities, specifically those that generate emissions of CO2, methane and other greenhouse gasses emissions, play a significant role in the rising temperature. If we do not stop global warming, the negative impact on humans and global ecosystems will become irreversible.
The good news is that climate change can still be tackled. Renewi’s purpose is to be part of the solution: reducing millions of tonnes of carbon emissions in value chains every year through the replacement of virgin materialsby secondary materials.
However, Renewi’s collection and recycling activities also use electricity and fuel, leading to CO2 emissions. Some of our processes to treat the waste arising in other industries, like thermal cleaning of soil, the production of compost and mechanical biological treatment, create direct carbon emissions. In addition, we have a large fleet of trucks that collect and transport waste across the Benelux; these emit vehicle particulate matter, nitrous oxide and further carbon emissions. Despite the fact that the entire chain of recycling and waste processing avoids emissions in much greater quantities than it produces itself, we acknowledge the impact our operations have on the environment, and we are working to decrease our emissions.
As we produce more secondary raw materials and recyclates, our own energy use is likely to rise in the coming years. That’s why we have put a focus on reducing our environmental impact and carbon footprint per tonne of waste handled.
In the short term, we cannot get to carbon neutral as defined by linear manufacturing companies producing consumables. Instead, we are ‘carbon positive’ in the value we bring through circularity.
Our goals and metrics
Our dual objectives are to be the leader in clean and green waste collection and to reduce the carbon impact of our operations. We have three metrics for each of these objectives (see table below).
We are committed to growing our share of clean-emission trucks and zero-emission trucks. To this end, we have commissioned 239 Euro 6 vehicles, Europe’s highest specification trucks, across the Netherlands and Belgium last year. In total, 95% of trucks purchased replaced older trucks in the fleet, and 5% were new additions. We have also acquired two zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), prototypes from leading manufacturers Volvo and DAF, one of which has been deployed in the city of Amsterdam. We expect delivery of the second truck during FY22. Through the year the carbon intensity of our collection has decreased slightly compared with FY20 (-0.20 kg CO2 per tonne of collected waste), to 9.84. This is largely as a result of the expansion of our Euro 6 fleet, which is more fuel efficient.
To reduce the carbon impact of our operations on site, we have invested in renewable energy production such as solar panel roofing at our sites. We have commissioned seven such roof panels over the past 18 months. We have another to be completed soon and are currently investigating installing panels in four more locations. In Ghent, we have secured the permit for a wind turbine, which will be the biggest land turbine in Belgium. It will be capable of covering 75% of the electricity use at our Ghent site and therefore around 10% of total electricity use within Commercial Belgium. Another area of development is the electrification of our company car fleet. Renewi is actively migrating its fleet of employee cars to electric and hybrid cars and building energy charging stations on our sites.
The carbon intensity at our sites remained about the same as it was in FY20. Energy production from anaerobic digestion decreased, but this loss was counterbalanced by an increase in renewable energy through our solar panels.
We will continue our efforts to be a leader in clean and green waste collection through the acquisition of at least 40 ZEVs in the Netherlands and 25 in Belgium. We have also invested in two compressed natural gas trucks in Groningen. We have taken steps to optimise our collection routes to reduce the number of kilometres driven, urban traffic and emissions.
This has been achieved in a number of ways including by collaborating with competitive waste collectors on a “White Label” collection basis in the Netherlands and Belgium by increasing route density and collecting contracted waste from multiple parties. “Green Collective”, a joint venture with Suez, is an example of this, and is a platform that other collectors can also join in order to minimise heavy logistics within urban areas.
To decrease the total carbon impact from our operations, we are currently investigating the installation of wind turbines and solar roofs on other Renewi sites and, where our own renewable energy isn’t sufficient, we will purchase green energy from front-runner green energy providers.