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How sustainable are motion plastics?

Plastic is a much-discussed material. We know that high-performance polymers can make a contribution to the protection of resources and to the environment, and have made this the focus of our corporate activities.
 
We look at plastics in three phases: during their production, in use and at the end of the product's life. On this page, we show you our answers to the question of sustainability, both in terms of our products and in everyday life at igus. Not everything has been answered yet, and for some things, especially with regard to sustainable production, we are still working on answers and solutions.
Still to be solved:
  • Emissions of gases and chemicals from the production of raw materials 
  • Abrasion during use 
  • Dependence on the fossil raw material oil
Goals:
  • By 2025, we want our buildings and production to be CO2-neutral.

Sustainable innovations in 2023



Before: Production of plastics and parts

Diagram energy balance steel, aluminium, plastic

Energy balance

The production of 1 m³ of plastic requires around 50% less energy than that of 1 m³ of steel or aluminium.
Graph oil consumption of plastics

Oil consumption

The production of high-performance plastics accounts for just 0.5% of global oil consumption.
RheinEnergie green electricity seal

Power consumption

All of the electricity we purchase is green, and we are reducing the amount of power our machinery and equipment consume. We are acquiring injection moulding machines that are 40% more energy efficient and replacing old ones. We reduced power consumption by 11% in 2021 even as we increased production hours. 
Icon cycle

99% recycled

99% of our rejects in injection-moulding production (sprues, defective parts) are recycled and returned to the manufacturing process.
clean igus

clean igus

To avoid plastic waste in our production, we have optimised our machines and conveyor belts. We implemented various measures to reduce the waste ratio (production waste + processed material) by 21% in 2021.

Environmental and climate certification

ISO 14001 environmental management standard

ISO 14001 environmental management standard

In order to make our environmental policy transparent and comprehensible, we have been certified according to ISO standard 14001 since 2019, an internationally recognised basis for environmental management systems. This helps us on our way towards a CO2-neutral factory.
ISO 50001 lettering in front of igus factory with footprint

Energy management standard ISO 50001:2018

Our energy management system is certified according to international standards. The main goal of the ISO 50001 standard is to help companies improve their energy-related performance by setting up systems and processes. 

During: Plastics in use

Lubrication-free

Each year, 27 million tonnes of grease pollute the environment. Our plastics require no lubrication.
Oil can and globe
50% of all lubricants sold worldwide end up in the environment. (Source: M. P. Schneider, 2006)
Oil bottle and drinking water bottles
1 litre of oil contaminates 1,000,000 litres of drinking water. (Source: Saskatchewan Association for Resource Recovery Corp., 2008)
Car silhouette
1/3 of the total fuel consumption of a passenger car is used to overcome friction in the engine, gearbox, tyres and brakes. (Source: K. Holmberg, P. Andersson, A. Erdemir, 2012)
Map of the world with oil barrels
Global demand for lubricants will increase by 2 % annually, according to forecasts = 45.4 million tonnes in 2019. (Source: The Freedonia Group, 2015)
Sustainability - durable products

Service life

Our plastics are optimised for wear. They do not corrode or accumulate grease and dirt. They last longer and don't have to be replaced often. The numerous tests in our test laboratory enable us to calculate their service life exactly.
More sustainable - less weight

Lightweight

Plastic is lighter than steel and saves weight and therefore energy, which has to be applied for the movement. In an aeroplane, this amounts to roughly 4kg if iglidur plain bearings are used instead of metal-rolled bearings. This again positively impacts kerosene consumption.
Sustainability - less friction

Energy saving

Our polymers are tribologically optimised and have low friction. Together with the lower weight, this ensures that less drive energy has to be used to move a machine part in an application.
Sustainability - smart plastics

Predictive maintenance

Components are not replaced until they have reached the end of their product life cycle - this is the idea behind our smart plastics product range. Sensors indicate wear and parts are replaced when really necessary; resources are used carefully and rationally.
Sustainability - bearing exchange

Replaceable parts

Not having to replace the entire application when wear occurs was one of the leading ideas when we developed our exchange bearings for linear guides. The rail is not damaged and the bearing housing can be reused. This conserves resources - and simultaneously results in lower costs.
Sustainability - iglidur N54

Biopolymers

With iglidur N54, we have developed a standard plain bearing that can be used universally and consists to 54% of renewable raw materials. The biopolymer bearing demonstrates that components can be sustainable, and motivates us in our future product development.

After: Plastics after their use

Classic recycling with chainge

Chainge recycling platform

We recycle technical plastics - both from igus products and from other manufacturers. We send the material to our production or recycling partners, and you will receive a voucher. As of 6/2023, we have recycled over 80,000kg of material. Our unique platform was awarded the Rhineland Business Prize in the "Sustainability" category in September 2022 and won the Cologne Chamber of Industry and Commerce's "Going Circular" recycling competition in May 2023. 
Graph Hydro Plastic Recycling Solution

HydroPRS recycling

We have invested €5 million in Mura Technologie, a company that uses the new technology HydroPRS (Hydrothermal Plastic Recycling Solution) to convert unsorted plastic waste into crude oil within 30 minutes. This conserves resources with pressure, temperature and water. The first industrial site was built at Wilton International in Teesside, UK, and opened on 26th October 2023. It will be commissioned in 2024. 


Tree planting


igus planting trees

35,450

trees
2023
igus planting trees

11,001

Trees
2022
igus planting trees

23,104

trees
2020-2021
Our tree-planting projects started in 2020 as Christmas gifts for customers and have since grown into a wide range of reforestation projects - not just in Germany, but worldwide. From saplings to large urban trees, we plant and care for trees and bushes in small and large campaigns. By creating new tree areas, we want to help reduce CO2pollution in the atmosphere and achieve our self-declared goal of becoming CO2-neutral.

Resource conservation projects and initiatives

Graph of the heating concept

Our heating concept with waste heat from production

Heating with gas, is that necessary? A lot of heat is generated in the production process, so you have to be able to do something with it? How do we manage to use the waste heat? That's what a team of igus engineers asked themselves and started trying it out. The result: the concept for a heater that uses the waste heat from machines. The plan: to no longer heat any buildings at the company's Cologne site with gas and to make the concept freely available to engineers and mechanical engineers, i.e. to industry. We call it MHRS - Machine Heat Recovery System. 

Plastic waste in a collection device in the river and cleaned Left: rubbish washed ashore in the devices; right: after collection

Plastic Fischer - against plastic waste in rivers

8 to 12 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans every year, mostly via rivers. Plastic Fischer starts right here and collects the rubbish in the rivers, which is more cost-effective than fishing in the sea. How does the project work? Local people use special devices to fish the rubbish out of rivers and receive a regular income in return. The collected plastic waste, which is mostly classified as non-recyclable, is forwarded to thermal treatment plants: it is incinerated with energy recovery. igus finances the collection of a total of 10,000kg of plastic waste. For the duration of the collection, at least 34 people in Kanpur and Mangalore (India) could be given a regular income, and on some days more people are employed. 

Waste trap on the Rhine near Cologne

Rhine Octopus ("Rheinkrake") – igus supports a floating waste trap

Every day, a ton of waste floats down the Rhine into the North Sea. That is an enormous amount. K.R.A.K.E., a Cologne-based association ("Krake" is the German word for octopus) has been collecting rubbish in and around the Rhine for years. It took a big step forward in September 2022 with its floating waste trap. Waste floating on the surface drifts into the London-style passive trap. The trap is regularly emptied and the waste recorded on land by association members. The waste is scientifically evaluated in cooperation with the University of Bonn as part of a long-term study on plastic waste in the Rhine.

clean igus

clean igus – our measures to avoid plastic waste

In the past, new parts from our injection moulding machines often ended up on the floor – and therefore in the rubbish bin – instead of in the collection containers. Waste accumulated due to the large production numbers and the many machines. Optimising our machines and conveyor belts in various ways enabled us to reduce the waste rate (production waste + processed material) by 21% in 2021: Gaps at junctions were closed with magnetic foils, machines and collection boxes were fitted with metal sheets and covers or lids, and conveyor belts were centred and fixed in place; brushes and guide plates now steer parts into the right path, and floor markings and stop wedges ensure the right position.

3D image of a socket for shore power

Combating pollutant emissions in container ports with shore power

Running diesel generators of container ships in port are a serious problem. They release fine dust, nitrogen and sulphur oxides as well as CO2 emissions into the environment and atmosphere by the tons. In 2022, we created iMSPO, a mobile socket that allowed container ships to be supplied with shore power easily, quickly and, above all, in a flexible way. If it is also "green", the path to the "zero-emission port" is clear. 

Resource-saving measures around the world



CO2 footprint igus

Update on the path to climate neutrality


In 2021, we emitted 31.2% less CO2 than in 2020. This includes emissions from Scopes 1 and 2. The transition to green electricity in mid-2021 and to climate-neutral gas in October 2021 played a key role here.
 
What is scope? Go to the article in the igus blog



The terms "igus", "Apiro", "chainflex", "CFRIP", "conprotect", "CTD", "drylin", "dry-tech", "dryspin", "easy chain", "e-chain", "e-chain systems", "e-ketten", "e-kettensysteme", "e-skin", "e-spool", "flizz", "ibow", "igear", "iglidur", "igubal", "igutex", "kineKIT", "manus", "motion plastics", "pikchain", "readychain", "readycable", "ReBeL", "speedigus", "triflex", "robolink", "xirodur", and "xiros" are legally protected trademarks of the igus® GmbH/ Cologne in the Federal Republic of Germany and where applicable in some foreign countries.

igus® GmbH points out that it does not sell any products of the companies Allen Bradley, B&R, Baumüller, Beckhoff, Lahr, Control Techniques, Danaher Motion, ELAU, FAGOR, FANUC, Festo, Heidenhain, Jetter, Lenze, LinMot, LTi DRiVES, Mitsubishi, NUM,Parker, Bosch Rexroth, SEW, Siemens, Stöber and all other drive manufacturers mention on this website. The products offered by igus® are those of igus® GmbH