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Water and waste

GEA is using resources sparingly and considerately. Environmental management comprises environmental protection at a corporate level as well as energy management, ensuring that the company is making continuous efforts to reduce consumption levels and environmental impacts at its sites.

By capturing and visualizing the relevant key performance indicators, which are made available to the responsible site managers via dashboards on a daily basis, GEA has succeeded in significantly raising awareness and understanding of environmental matters at the sites. This data pool is also used as a basis for defining local environmental programs and campaigns. In addition, GEA‘s Environmental Core Rules serve as guidelines for pro-environmental and resource conservation behaviors of employees worldwide. In 2019, GEA captured the water consumption of its 77 largest sites, which included production, service and administration. In this context, GEA showed a slightly lower demand of 284,700 cubic meters of water in 2019. At the moment, there are still no uniform international minimum standards for the quality of wastewater discharge that go beyond regulatory requirements for controlling the quality of such discharges. The respective evaluations have shown that sanitary effluents and irrigation water residues account for the bulk of the wastewater. 

Water 2019 2018*
Water demand (in thousand cubic meters) 284.7 294.5
Municipal and mains water (in thousand cubic meters) 257.0 265.4
Water from wells and groundwater (in thousand cubic meters) 27.7 29.1
Water consumption
thereof industrial and process water (in thousand cubic meters) 97.8 103.8
Wastewater (in thousand cubic meters) 251.8 272.4
Share of process water in total water consumption (in %) 34.3 35.4
Share of wastewater in total water consumption (in %) 88.4 92.5
Sites reporting water consumption 77 76

*) Due to changes in allocation and computation, the reference base of reporting sites was adjusted in 2018.

Management of water risks

The Global Risks Report 2019 released by the World Economic Forum identified the water supply crisis as the fourth-biggest risk to society in the next decade as far as its potential impact is concerned.

As part of the recurring survey of environmental risks and opportunities, the year under review saw the focus being placed on water scarcity issues. For the purpose of ascertaining the impact of water shortage on its production, GEA has devised a process for identifying regions vulnerable to water scarcity risks. In the year under review, a mapping of GEA sites located in water-stressed regions was carried out. The respective classification is based on the “Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas,“ a tool using current data to create a global water risk map that is provided by the World Resources Institute, a non-profit organization. There are five water risk classes: low, medium low, medium high, high and extremely high. In 2019, the year under review, GEA focused on sites in regions exposed to extremely high, high or medium high water risks. This is where detailed queries – including the requirement to state specific reasons for the answers provided – were performed. Among other things, the company collected information on whether water risks were known and relevant to operations, which legal requirements needed to be met and which water conservation and saving measures were being taken. 

Waste

Metals, which are recycled, accounted for 57 percent of the overall amount of 13,586 tons of waste generated in 2019. Hazardous aqueous substances made up 6.2 percent (846 tons) of total waste. The increase was due to the relocation of the flow components production to Suzhou. At 143 tons, the level of plastic waste remained low. The individual components are shown below: 

Waste in tons 2019 2018*
Aqueous rinsing liquids containing hazardous substances 846 193
Machining emulsions and solutions not containing halogens 42 433
Packaging material: paper, cardboard 634 568
Packaging material: plastic 143 120
Packaging material: wood 2,184 1,863
Paper and cardboard 188 286
Domestic waste 1,413 1,285
Metals – recycling 7,758 9,721
Total 13,586 14,470
Sites reporting waste generation 70 62

*) Due to changes in allocation and computation, the reference base of reporting sites was adjusted in 2018

GEA primarily processes metals, which is why it places its main focus on recycling metal waste; GEA’s recycling rate is at 57 percent. More efficient production led to an overall reduction in the amount of metal waste. Moreover, GEA closely cooperates with suppliers and customers in order to develop environmentally-friendly packaging and ensure proper disposal and equipment recycling at the end of a plant’s lifecycle. This also includes the production of bioplastics from waste: The majority of today’s plastics are produced from fossil fuels like oil and coal. Owing to scientific progress in recent years, plastics can now be made from sustainable sources, namely plantbased raw materials like sugar cane, potato starch, cellulose (wood), corn, soy, used cooking oils as well as food and agricultural waste. GEA’s specialists have a detailed knowledge of the key production stages, including the use of bio-based intermediates such as succinic acid that offer alternative routes for producing bioplastics. Another example is the production of lactic acid from plant-based feedstocks. Lactic acid is a basic material for the production of polylactic acid (PLA), a biodegradable, sustainable alternative to PET and one of the most frequently produced bioplastics worldwide. GEA’s engineers are able to devise and develop bespoke systems for upstream and downstream process steps in the production of intermediates and biopolymers. 

> 58.40 m³ water / 1 Mio Sales (down 4.22% vs. 2018)    
> 2.79 t waste / 1 Mio Sales (down 7% vs. 2018)

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