Resources and circular economy (GRI 301)
Management approach resources and circular economy
The use of raw materials, semi-finished products and finished products with a global procurement value of CHF 1,136 million is a significant production factor for Geberit. The grey energy associated with purchased materials is founded on basic data from the Ecoinvent database (version 3.8) and amounts to around 13,600 TJ (previous year 14,000 TJ), around six times the entire energy consumption of the production plants. CO2 emissions associated with purchased materials amount to 742,402 tonnes of CO2 (Scope 3) and are responsible for 55.8% of Geberit’s entire CO2 emissions. This emphasises the importance of treating raw materials with care. In the reporting year, resource efficiency in ceramic production was improved by 7.6%, with optimisation of 10% envisaged for the period 2021 to 2024. It is important that the resource-efficient use of raw materials is considered as early as the product development process. This has been implemented systematically since 2007 as part of eco-design workshops and is thus a central element of Geberit’s CO2 strategy, see GRI 305 and Product management and innovation.
As part of the European vision for a resource-saving circular economy, efforts are being made to identify and implement options in the area of closed material cycles. The aim is to minimise resource and energy usage, lengthen the service life of products as far as possible, close internal and external material cycles to the greatest extent possible, and constantly increase the use of internal and external recycled materials. Of key importance here is that Geberit products must have a very long industrial service life, as many of them will be installed in buildings for decades. This is guaranteed through the use of top-class materials and the application of strict quality requirements. An important factor here is the availability of spare parts for up to 25 years for a significant proportion of the product range. From 2023, spare parts availability will be extended and increased from 25 to 50 years for concealed cisterns, and a lifetime guarantee will now be provided for ceramic products (not including seat and lid). Furthermore, Geberit products are usually backwards-compatible and can be cleaned and repaired easily. Attention is also paid to using as little packaging material as possible. All these features combine sustainability aspects and support the circular economy, both in production as well as the use of the products in buildings.
Among other aspects, the use of recycled plastics is constantly promoted by Geberit as part of the eco-design workshops. In particular, work continues towards constantly increasing the share of bought-in plastic regranulate used (post-consumer waste). Alongside recycled ABS, a suitable recycled material was also evaluated for applications involving polypropylene (PP). This will be used increasingly, for example as transport protection for Mepla pipes.
In addition, sound insulating Geberit SilentPanels for the prewall were launched on the Swiss market in the reporting year. 60% of the material used in manufacturing the SilentPanels comes from recycled PET bottles and the product can be reused easily. As a result, it is possible to significantly reduce material usage compared to standard construction.
Since 2020, Geberit has also been supporting the Operation Clean Sweep initiative, which is committed to ensuring that plastic granules do not pollute the environment. To this end, a review was carried out at all plastics-processing plants worldwide, and measures for improvement defined and implemented. These include raising staff awareness and regularly verifying the implementation of measures as part of the internal and external ISO audits.
Plastic also plays a key role as a material in piping systems, which is why Geberit participated in a TEPPFA study on the overall consideration of environmental aspects in the plastic pipe industry. In the study, the costs and benefits of different measures aimed at reducing CO2 emissions and improving recyclability were assessed, in particular with regard to the use of plastic regranulate in piping systems.
Materials used (GRI 301-1)
The use of materials depends on the various manufacturing processes: ten plants for manufacturing sanitary ceramics, eleven plants for processing plastic and metal, five plants in the area of composites and metal, and one plant for manufacturing bathroom furniture. The range of production processes used thus includes the areas of ceramic production, injection moulding, blow moulding, extrusion, metal- and thermoforming, woodworking and assembly.
The most important materials for production are plastic and metal raw materials, mineral raw materials and various semi-finished products and finished products. A total of 415,945 tonnes of materials were used in 2022 (previous year 457,299 tonnes). Detailed key figures on the use of materials can be found at Key figures sustainability > Environment.
In 2017, the implementation of a software-based solution for managing hazardous substances began and has since been rolled out in 23 production plants. This means that a standardised, efficient process now exists for managing and reducing the use of hazardous operating and auxiliary materials. In 2022, the volume of hazardous substances used was reduced by 13%. For example, process optimisation in the production of welded, bent Mapress Stainless Steel fittings not only helped improve efficiency, quality, ergonomics and waste, but also reduced pickling step by step.
Percentage of recycled material (GRI 301-2)
When determining the share of recycled material in production, a distinction is made between internal and external sources.
Almost 100% of the plastic waste produced during plastics processing is recycled internally. This internally generated recycled material is ground either on site or via a decentralised mill and fed back into the process. The proportion fluctuates depending on the manufacturing process. For blow moulding it is around 35%, for injection moulding around 15%, depending on product class, and for pipe extrusion around 3%. This corresponds to around 9,100 tonnes in total (previous year 10,000 tonnes).
Raw materials are also recycled internally and fed back into the process in ceramic production. The recycling rate for the ceramic slip is 5 to 10% and 20 to 40% for the glaze, corresponding to around 27,000 tonnes in total. The reporting year also saw resource efficiency in ceramic production improve by a further 7.6% to 0.41 kg waste/kg ceramic.
The share of recycled material in purchased metals is relatively high. This data originates from the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy. Extrapolated, the raw material metal purchased contains around 37,700 tonnes of recycled material.
With plastics, virgin material is primarily used. The search for suitable, high-quality regranulate from external plastic waste (post-consumer waste) is, however, an integral part of Geberit’s procurement strategy. In terms of the material Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), a suitable alternative made of 100% recycled material was found. This alternative is based on high-quality plastic waste from the electronics industry (e.g. used computer cases). According to the supplier, the manufacture of this regranulate consumes over 80% less energy compared to the manufacture of a tonne of new petrochemical-based plastic, while releasing around three tonnes less CO2 per tonne of regranulate into the atmosphere. In 2022, 934 tonnes of ABS regranulate (previous year 957 tonnes) were used for various components in exposed and concealed cisterns. Thanks to an intelligent redesign, around half of the material used for the fill and flush valves launched in 2021 for the range of floor-standing WCs in the Nordic countries is made of high-quality ABS regranulate, for example. The use of plastic regranulate is generally to be increased further and applied to other product areas. Since 2020, a second high-quality recycled plastic (post-consumer waste) in the form of polypropylene (PP) has been available, 4.1 tonnes of which were used in 2022 (previous year 4.2 tonnes).
Reuse of products and packaging materials (GRI 301-3)
Due to their long service life and the way in which they are installed, Geberit products can only be reused or recycled to a very limited extent. A targeted improvement in recyclability can be achieved by using recyclable thermoplastics instead of non-recyclable duroplast plastics, as is the case with the manufacture of a WC seat and lid at the plant in Pfullendorf (DE).
In the case of packaging materials, Geberit’s goal – also as part of eco-design workshops – is to keep amounts as low as possible, to continuously increase the share of recycled material, and to simplify the recycling and return processes. Efforts to reduce packaging amounts are already starting to bear fruit. For example, certain packaging levels are being omitted, bags reduced in size or thinner foils used, while instructions are printed directly on the packaging rather than on paper, or replaced by a QR code. In addition, care is being taken to avoid the use of polystyrene (EPS) wherever possible and, where necessary, to replace it with recyclable cardboard. A good example here is the redesign of the packaging for the sanitary flush unit. Proven standard packaging – introduced as part of an effort to reduce complexity – is now also being reviewed. Since 2021, WC lids are shipped in cardboard boxes that have been reduced in size as far as possible. These boxes are almost four times lighter than those used previously, cause 70% fewer CO2 emissions and are both easier to use and cheaper to procure. The packaging of the MasterFix fittings was also revised in the reporting year. The annual material savings amount to 1.8 tonnes of cardboard and 58,000 m2 of plastic foil – an area equivalent to around eight football fields. This results in a saving of around 24 tonnes of CO2 per year.
In 2022, around 38,900 tonnes of packaging material were used (previous year 41,100 tonnes), of which around 67% was collected and recycled by Geberit or by financed contractual partners. The rest was disposed of and recycled on a country-specific basis.