On the Way to Circularity

Mar 18, 2024  |  4 min read

Recycling Initiatives in Germany and France

Sartorius supports the concept of a circular economy which aims to minimize waste and make the most of resources. In the ambition to increase the company's recycling rates and reduce the environmental impact of its own production, teams at the most resource-intensive production sites in Göttingen, Germany, and Aubagne, France, have run recycling initiatives and made measurable progress in optimizing their resource allocation and use.

This article is posted on Sartorius Blog.

Waste management and recycling play an important role at all stages of the numerous production processes at Sartorius - because almost every part of a product is a valuable raw material.

Andreas Marwitz, Manager of Environmental Performance & Reporting, is responsible for optimizing waste disposal and management at the company's headquarters. Together with his team, Andreas implements new solutions to optimize Sartorius' environmental footprint.

"From our point of view, there are many valuable materials, such as metals, various types of plastics and even chemicals, that we can transfer to new product cycles and thereby reducing the overall volume of waste. In addition, we aim to optimize processes and decrease their environmental impact, including the greenhouse gas emissions caused by logistics," Andreas explains.

To make logistics as efficient as possible, the Göttingen campus uses high-performance balers to compact materials such as plastic film and bags or metal before they leave the site, allowing for more material to be transported by truck. In addition, reusable cardboard octabins are used instead of heavy steel containers to reduce transportation weight.

Materials and circularity goals

With the idea of a circular economy in mind, Sartorius has defined the goal of optimizing the use of resources.

Until 2030

  • At least 75% of Group sales revenue with products designed according to circularity criteria (including product and transport packaging)
  • Zero operational waste to landfill

Learn More

Collaboration with "Göttinger Werkstätten" solves the challenge

The Göttingen site is the Group's largest production site, particularly for membranes and filters. In the past, filters that did not pass quality control could not be recycled because they are made up of different materials, such as membranes or additional plastic parts. 

In response to this challenge, Andreas and his team got in touch with "Göttinger Werkstätten". The non-profit organization is located next to the Sartorius headquarters and aims to give people with disabilities a meaningful career perspective and a role in a team. 

Together, the teams found a solution to the recycling challenge: Sartorius delivers filters that can not be sold to the "Göttinger Werkstätten" where workers dismantle the filters and sort out the recyclable parts. The recyclable materials are then ground into pellets at a local partner's recycling plant, and later used to make new products. This is how former filters become flowerpots or shopping baskets in their next life.

Including additional plastic from packaging, Sartorius in Göttingen today returns a total of around 100 tons of plastic raw materials to the recycling process every year.

From filters to flowerpot

1. Filter disassembly

2. Disassembled filter capsule

3. Grinded pellets for reuse

4. Recycled plastic flower pot

Decreasing rejects and increasing recycling in Aubagne

At the Sartorius production site in Aubagne, France, further recycling efforts are underway. As part of the continuous improvement process guided by ISO 14001, the international standard for an effective environmental management system, the local team launched an initiative to reduce and recycle in-process rejects. 

The initial approach has already produced impressive results: Optimization of the production process helped to reduce rejects by around 60%.

In addition, the remaining parts from logistics and production are now sorted and packaged on site and later sold as raw material. A partner company processes these materials into plastic pellets, which form the basis for the manufacture of new products. All in all, this results in a rejects recycling rate of 90%.

Video: Recycling program at Sartorius in Aubagne

Video: Recycling program at Sartorius in Aubagne

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