Joint Solutions – Collaboration in the Circular Economy
Today, only about nine percent of global value chains are circular. More intensive collaboration among key players helps to develop solutions to complex challenges, achieve economies of scale and remove barriers that impede progress toward the circular economy. Industrial companies can thus drive the next wave of innovation. After all, the circular economy has the potential to generate economic benefits of up to $4.5 trillion by 2030.
Covestro wants to cooperate with as many players as possible in all areas of value creation to find the best solutions for the circular economy. Industrial alliances can create new innovation spaces and launch lighthouse projects to lead to new business opportunities. New value creation paths are possible, as well as new business relationships beyond the existing B2B businesses.
Covestro is driving joint solutions in many fields - for example, for the dissemination of alternative raw materials, for the expansion of renewable energies and for the development of innovative recycling technologies. In the fight against plastic waste in the environment, we also rely on collaboration with as many partners as possible.
Jointly for alternative raw materials
Covestro is increasingly using alternative, sustainable raw materials in plastics production to replace crude oil. To this end, the company has entered into a strategic alliance with Neste. The Finnish petroleum company produces renewable hydrocarbons from old oils and fats. These have a mass balance certification according to ISCC PLUS. The Austrian plastics manufacturer Borealis uses them to produce sustainable phenol, which Covestro then takes to manufacture the high-performance plastic polycarbonate.
Covestro has also been receiving ISCC Plus-certified benzene from French petroleum company Total since 2021, which is used to produce rigid polyurethane foam.
- Press release: Neste and Covestro join forces
- Press release: Covestro receives first delivery of sustainable benzene from Total
Jointly for green energy
Besides alternative raw materials and recycling, something else is needed to make the circular economy truly sustainable – green energy. Covestro has already forged some strong partnerships in this area. For example, our company covers 45 percent of its electricity needs in Belgium from wind power provided by ENGIE, the largest producer of renewable energy in the country. Since April 2021, the Antwerp site has been supplied with the green electricity. This reduces our environmental footprint in Belgium by more than 38,000 metric tons of CO₂, equivalent to the emissions of 20,000 cars per year.
Covestro will also cover a significant portion of its electricity needs in Germany in the future with wind energy from the North Sea. To this end, we signed what was at the time the world's largest industrial customer supply contract for electricity from offshore wind farms with the Danish energy company Ørsted. Starting in 2025, Ørsted will provide green power over a ten-year period from a newly constructed wind farm off the island of Borkum.
- Press release: Covestro and ENGIE sign supply contract for green power in Belgium
- Press release: Green power from the North Sea
Jointly for innovative recycling
Covestro also relies on cooperation in recycling, another pillar of the circular economy. Here, our company has developed an innovative process for the chemical recycling of flexible polyurethane foam from used mattresses. We have been operating a pilot plant for this at the Leverkusen site since the beginning of 2021. A prerequisite for recycling is that the different foams contained in mattresses are effectively separated. To this end, we have developed an intelligent sorting solution together with the companies Recticel and Redwave. This uses algorithms that recognize the different types of foam.
Jointly for more transparency
In order to advance recycling and the circular economy, it is necessary to know what raw materials are in used products and where they come from. To do this, it is essential to increase transparency in the supply chains. To this end, Covestro has teamed up with Circularise and Domo Chemicals to develop a blockchain solution for the industry to trace plastics and their components. This can also be used to determine sustainability metrics such as the CO₂ footprint or water savings.
This approach supports car manufacturers, for example, in recycling end-of-life vehicles and designing the next generations of vehicles. Sports car manufacturer Porsche already uses the digital solution to learn more about the parts and materials it uses in its production processes.
- Press release: Circularise and Porsche collaborate with Borealis, Covestro and Domo Chemicals to enable plastics traceability in the automotive sector
Jointly against plastic waste
Covestro is also focusing on cooperative ventures to stop the influx of plastic waste into rivers and oceans. This is essentially the result of inadequate waste management. Countries in Africa and Asia in particular must be put in a position to put a stop to this development.
In the fight against marine litter, Covestro is particularly involved in the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, a global network of companies active since the beginning of 2019. The initiative has four focus areas: Introducing and developing circular economy infrastructures, driving innovative technologies and solutions, informing and empowering nations and citizens, and cleaning up the environment of plastic waste.
What is clear, however, is that plastic per se is not the problem and, accordingly, should not be banned. On the contrary, high-quality plastics are a problem solver and are urgently needed - for renewable energies, new forms of mobility and sustainable construction, for example. And at the end of their useful life, plastic products do not belong in the trash, but must be viewed and used much more as a valuable resource.