Circular economy @ BMW Group.

In today’s society, a value chain deserves the name if it uses recycled and sustainable materials – as comprehensively as possible. As part of our commitment to economically sustainable business, the BMW Group supports a future-oriented, comprehensive circular economy.

8.3 billion tonnes of plastic waste have already been produced on this planet, and more than 300 million tonnes are added every year. Almost all of this waste remains unused and barely decomposes in landfills. Figures like this show us why our awareness of this problem urgently needs to increase. The European Commission’s initiative to reduce the impact of specific plastic products on the environment is one means of addressing this situation. Moreover, the concept of a circular economy is a priority for the Commission. This is also the case for the BMW Group – circular economy is one of the key components of the BMW Group’s sustainability strategy. The prerequisite, however, is that we need to consider the entire value chain as circular. This is the only way to make use of the comprehensive potential of the circular economy (CE) in an effective and sustainable manner. In our view, sustainability and the circular economy are not ends in themselves. On the contrary, a consistent and ecological CE is also in our economic interests, as it allows us to reduce procurement costs.  

Commitment as a joint venture

Despite consistent measures and a multitude of successful results for a sustainable circular economy, the BMW Group plans to (and must) continue to increase its role with regard to the development of a circular economy. Our guideline here is: wherever possible and socially acceptable– in technical, economical and ecological terms – we will replace artificial materials with recycled and sustainable raw materials throughout our entire value chain. This policy is guided by the agreements of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), whose aim is to mobilize the entire global economy for the creation of a sustainable future.

Circular-Economy

We believe in the importance of cooperation such as with Encory GmbH, a joint venture of the BMW Group and the ALBA Group. The ALBA Group aims to work together with the industry to combine waste prevention and high-quality recycling in one unified concept. We are building on this experience to increase sustainability and establish a functioning circular economy. This includes solutions to make the processing of vehicle spare parts more resource-friendly. Alternatively, we are devising guidelines for the recycling of materials that are no longer usable in order to ensure optimal reusability – or for their disposal according to the method that is least damaging to the environment. Just by choosing remanufacture – the industrial processing of used parts to bring them up to the same standards as new parts – over the manufacturing of new parts, reductions of 85 percent of the raw material and 55 percent of energy can be made. Already, the annual energy savings resulting from worldwide remanufacture are as much as the energy value of a quantity of oil that would have to be transported in 233 tankers. In terms of resources, the annual savings are equivalent to a loaded convoy of vehicles reaching three and a half times around the globe.

Commitment to a circular economy

One example that shows just how serious we are about replacing new, artificially produced resources with natural materials as well as reprocessing and reusing materials is our commitment to a circular economy with regard to steel and aluminium:

These materials are among the primary raw materials used in production at the BMW Group. To define sustainable standards in this area and establish certification programmes, we have been working together with international initiatives such as the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) and the Responsible Steel Initiative (RSI). In the ASI, for example, the BMW Group is a founding member and was involved in a certificate programme for the aluminium value chain. Our main aim here is the sustainable procurement, production and utilisation of the material as proven by certificate – covering the bauxite mining, melting process using renewable energy sources, product design, storage and recycling.

Circular-Economy

Further, we want to highlight the significance of sustainability through specific activities in the field. For example, we are currently dealing with the challenge of effectively integrating a total of 785,209 tonnes of waste and recyclable material into a sustainable circular economy. This is the amount that is still being produced during one year of production worldwide. To date, we have already succeeded in effectively reusing almost 99 percent of this amount (776, 179 tonnes), thus practising management that conserves resources and cuts costs.

The example in the area of steel and aluminium, as well as our collaborations, demonstrate how seriously the BMW Group is taking the issue of the circular economy. With the prescription for “durability”, “reparability” and “recyclability”, the European Commission has outlined the crucial touchstones of its initiative. We are already meeting all of these criteria. However, we are not going to rest on our laurels. As we see it, a circular economy means a continuous process of analysis and improvement. The mission of the BMW Group is to carry out this process responsibly, aiming to maximise economic success, and to continue to promote it.