Even at its most basic level, life doesn’t work without using energy, consuming resources, and producing waste. In chemical operations it’s the same, even if to make the countless useful products they provide they must often run at an impressively large scale. At Clariant, we have systematically worked to optimize the use of resources from our founding in 1995 – which in manufacturing is of course also of economic importance.
With dedicated programs like eWatch, we’ve been able to cut our energy use, emissions, waste, and discharge of water by 25 to 45% from 2005 to 2013, and are now on our way to achieve further, similarly large reductions by 2025. These reductions not only improve our environmental footprint but, in energy costs alone, generate savings of about 5 million Swiss francs per year. So it’s no wonder that our plant and site managers are constantly thinking about how to achieve more of them.
One recent example is provided by our operations in Sweden, which since 2018 all completely run on green energy. (There were still three sites at that time including one in Malmö, which has since been divested.) Camilla Lång, site manager at Clariant’s Functional Minerals operations in Hällekis and head of Environmental Safety and Health Affairs (ESHA) for the Nordic region, first negotiated the switch to 100% hydroelectrical power for »her« site, then extended the switch to the other Swedish sites.
»In total, this cut CO2 emissions by around 300 tons per year,« she explains, »which is the equivalent emissions caused by 70 Swedes in daily life.« Due to the better deal available with the combined purchasing power of the sites the switch also greatly reduced costs. »We changed to green power and paid less,« says Lång, who is still proud of having initiated the move. »When there is enough supply and a working market, it’s actually easy to switch.«
In 2019, the change to 100% renewable electricity was also made at Clariant’s German site in Knapsack, near Cologne, where our widely used Exolit® flame retardants are made. The switch is part of our commitment to reduce Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions, i.e. indirect emissions caused by using electricity, by 35% by 2025.
Running the four production plants at the site on purely green power will save even more carbon than in Sweden: an estimated 7,300 tons of CO2 per year, equaling the annual emissions of more than 1,500 conventional cars. As Stephan Neunerdt, manager of the site and Head of Production & Technology Flame Retardants at Clariant, explains, the switch is also special for other reasons.
»Free of restricted compounds, and protecting anything from your car seat to your phone, our phosphorus-based products were already pretty great before,« he says. »But with our new line Exolit® OP Terra, launched shortly after the switch, we now offer halogen-free flame retardants that are both made with renewable energy and largely from renewable feedstock. Oh yeah, and they’re also proven to be perfectly recyclable.«
Reducing waste is of course also vital for reducing impact. At the site of our Industrial & Consumer Specialties (ICS) Business Unit in Bonthapally in India, we have therefore installed a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant, able to treat 300,000 liters of effluent per day. Running since 2019, the plant uses biological treatment, ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis and several modern evaporation methods, such as thin-film drying.
»Efficiently treating water is essential for meeting India’s water challenges«, says ESHA Manager Mohd Muzeebuddin, »especially in the face of global warming.« The site is a zero liquid discharge site, meaning it produces no liquid waste but only clean water, and has received a top rating for its environment, health and safety (EHS) practices from the Confederation of Indian Industry.
As it always is, the more we and our teams seize such opportunities for improvement, the more we find. Which, one might say, is a sound blueprint for how Clariant’s footprint will develop over the next 25 years.