Covestro Group at a Glance

Environmental Impact of Own Operations

Our business activities also have an impact on the environment: Covestro uses water for, among other things, cooling and cleaning, processes that result in wastewater containing various substances. Our production processes also generate waste, which we dispose of according to local guidelines or hire licensed companies to dispose of or recycle. In addition to the aforementioned greenhouse gases, other emissions into the air are also released into the atmosphere as permitted by the relevant authorities.

Water and Wastewater

Covestro takes a holistic view of water as a resource: We take not only our water usage and the related problems of water scarcity and quality into consideration, but also the wastewater we generate and the growing concern about plastic waste in the oceans. This is underscored in our Corporate Commitment on Water.

We assessed risk at our production sites to examine water availability, quality, and accessibility. In our production activities, we strive to use water several times and to recycle it. Covestro primarily generates wastewater from once-through cooling systems and production. All wastewater is subject to strict monitoring and analysis according to the applicable legal regulations before it is discharged into disposal channels.

Water Usage

The availability and accessibility of clean water is vital for our production sites. As part of our Corporate Commitment on Water issued in the year 2017, we initiated and have continually refined a global risk assessment of all of our production sites covering water availability, quality, and accessibility.

Since last year, our risk-based water approach has included potential regulatory risks at our production sites in addition to physical risks such as water scarcity and quality. This approach is followed at main production sites currently exposed to a high risk of what is known as water stress and, during the reporting year, was further rolled out to other sites identified in the course of the update. Water stress includes water scarcity as well as other factors such as water quality and access to water. We identify locations subject to water stress using recognized tools, such as the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas by the World Resources Institute and the Water Risk Filter by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). In addition, we have internal exchanges with the experts at each site. Sites located in current water stress regions account for 24% of our total water usage. By analyzing the local water management at the sites, risks can be spotted at an early stage and potential for improvement can be identified. For instance, the production site in Antwerp (Belgium) launched a program in the year 2018 to reduce water consumption and increase the percentage of recycled water used. Moreover, in the year 2021, the site along with 50 other chemical and pharmaceuticals companies joined a project called Learning Network Water organized by Essenscia, the Belgian Federation for Chemistry and Life Sciences Industries. The project aims to develop action plans for water protection and circular water usage and to provide a platform for members to learn from one another.

Use of water in the year 2021 (million cubic meters)

Use of water in the year of 2021 (million cubic meters) (graphic)

1 Water stress regions taking into account overall physical risks such as water shortages, water scarcity, and flood risk, not including the acquired Resins & Functional Materials (RFM) business.

2 E.g., rainwater.

3 Differences between the volumes of water drawn and discharged can be explained in part through unquantified evaporation, leaks, water used as a raw material in products, and condensate from the use of steam as a source of energy.

4 Also includes water for irrigation purposes.

5 Total from production processes, sanitary wastewater, and rinsing and purification in production.

At 242 million cubic meters, overall water usage in the Group is slightly below the previous year’s figure. One reason for the decrease is improved water monitoring at one of our US sites. The majority of the total volume of water used by Covestro (some 80%) is once-through cooling water. This water is only heated and does not come into contact with products. It can be returned to the water cycle without further treatment in line with the relevant official permits. The total volume of once-through cooling water was 194 million cubic meters in the reporting year.

Some of the water used can be recycled in various ways. For instance, recycled water can be used again in the same process multiple times, e.g., for cleaning or cooling purposes. It is also possible to reuse water from upstream processes in subsequent steps. This permits corresponding quantities of fresh water to be conserved each year. In the reporting year, the volume of recycled water used stood at 6 million cubic meters (previous year: 5 million cubic meters).

We currently calculate our total water consumption according to Standard 303-5 (2018), which involves determining the difference between total water used and total water discharged. In the reporting year, total water usage is calculated at –0.5 million cubic meters. The negative figure is explained by sources such as water arising from reactions during chemical production processes.

Our goal is to minimize wastewater emissions, which depend largely on our production volumes and the current product portfolio, as much as possible.

The volume of process wastewater saw a year-over-year increase of 5%. The proportion of process wastewater purified or otherwise treated (e.g., incinerated) at a wastewater treatment plant operated by Covestro or a third party amounted to 78% worldwide. Following an analysis, another 22% was categorized as environmentally safe and returned to the water cycle. In the reporting year, the percentage of evaporation losses rose to a total of 11 million cubic meters.

Various emissions into water also increased somewhat in line with the higher volume of process wastewater.

Emissions into water (1,000 metric tons p.a.)


























Heavy metals





Inorganic salts






Chemical oxygen demand (COD), calculated based on total organic carbon (TOC) values: 1.65 (TOC × 3 = COD).

Work on the collaborative Re-Salt project, which was launched in the year 2016 by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for the purpose of recycling salt-laden industrial process water, was successfully completed. Another research project called RIKovery was launched to carry on salt water recycling activities. This project supported by the BMBF builds on the successful Re-Salt project and continues research into the treatment of process wastewater. The goal is to further increase concentrations and reduce the amount of energy required so that even more salt and water can be recovered. Over the three-year project term, Covestro is working with additional industrial, plant engineering, and research partners to achieve goals including taking the next technological step to increase the circular usage of process wastewater.


From an economic considerations perspective, Covestro’s manufacturing processes apply a maximum of efficiency when it comes to the use of materials; compared with other chemical companies, these result in relatively small volumes of waste. We observe and evaluate our manufacturing processes on an ongoing basis to minimize material consumption and disposal volumes as much as possible. This is achieved by safe disposal channels with separation according to the type of waste and economically expedient recycling processes. However, production fluctuations, building demolition and refurbishment, and land remediation can also influence waste volumes and recycling paths. In fiscal 2021, the total volume of waste we generated increased. The reason was mainly additional volumes of hazardous production waste, particularly the waste volume from the acquired Resins & Functional Materials (RFM) business. We determine specific opportunities for waste reduction with targeted projects and put these into practice within the context of our existing manufacturing processes. For instance, in the manufacturing process for our toluylene diisocyanate () product, our Dormagen site began testing a new procedure that significantly reduces the resulting process waste volumes in the year 2019. The insights gained from this project can be transferred to additional plants at other Covestro sites. Our large-scale TDI production facility in Shanghai (China) is currently being equipped with this technology after a pandemic-related break.

Covestro also supports the reuse and treatment of its materials in accordance with economic and environmental criteria. Some of the waste created by our production processes with a high heating value is burned as fuel to generate steam for our production facilities.

Our commitment to the topic of sustainability plays an increasingly vital role with regard to the purchasing of packaging materials. We have implemented an approach to address this: When procuring packing materials, Covestro reviews in principle whether and to what extent used or reconditioned packaging can be used in the place of new packaging. For instance, Covestro uses post-consumer regrind plastic barrels for waste transportation. Drums made of recycled plastic replace plastic drums from virgin material. Thus, Covestro uses fewer raw materials, reduces emissions, and has established the initial building blocks for a in the area of transportation and packaging.

Covestro also supports initiatives such as Operation Clean Sweep (OCS) that focus on preventing plastic particles from entering waterways and oceans. We have introduced global measures to minimize the loss of plastic pellets on the way from production to the finished product at our customers’ locations. In fiscal 2018, we urged our partners in the supply chain to join the initiative; at the same time, we are continually monitoring its progress. However, due to the pandemic we were unable to review our progress in fiscal 2021. Covestro started work on a proposal for an external certification system for the entire plastics value chain in cooperation with the PlasticsEurope association and other members in the 2019 fiscal year. The initial test runs were held in the year 2021, and the system is being rolled out to PlasticsEurope members starting in fiscal 2022. Covestro had already added the topic of OCS to Covestro’s (HSEQ) certifications in the year 2020. The next step will be to review and assess the relevant sites using the measures developed and obtain an independent certificate no later than the end of the 2023 fiscal year. The results will be documented in a report. The aforementioned list includes systematic environmental aspect analyses, risk assessments, preventive measures, targets, improvement measures, and employee training. Corrective measures must be taken in the case of identified deviations. We are further reviewing how we can make OCS targets part of the sustainability issues covered by contracts with logistics partners.

Waste and Recycling

In nearly all countries, the law stipulates exhaustive reporting on waste volumes and waste streams, a requirement complied with accordingly by Covestro’s sites. In Germany, for example, there are waste-tracking procedures between the source of the waste and its disposal that enable end-to-end traceability of the waste flows. In fiscal year 2021, we revised the classification of waste according to waste categories and the corresponding methods of disposal in our in-house waste data reporting to better reflect topics such as the circular economy. Our definitions were also better harmonized worldwide. Only the definition of hazardous waste remains subject to locally applicable rules. Based on this documentation, we prepare and evaluate our waste report, which is published annually. This year, other waste disposal categories were introduced to obtain a more granular picture of our waste management activities.

Waste generated (1,000 metric tons p.a.)











Total waste generated





Non-hazardous waste generated





Hazardous waste generated1





of which hazardous waste from production






Definition of hazardous waste in accordance with local laws.

Waste by means of disposal (1,000 metric tons p.a.)











Total volume of waste treated










recycled waste





thermally recycled waste (with energy recovery)2









incinerated waste (without energy recovery)





hazardous waste removed to landfill





nonhazardous waste removed to landfill











A variance between the volume of waste generated and waste disposed of may arise due to the different times the waste is generated or disposed of and any resulting internal temporary storage.


New reporting category from the 2021 reporting period onward. These volumes were previously reported in the incinerated or recycled waste category.


Disposal method cannot be unambiguously allocated to the above disposal/recovery methods, e.g., chemical-physical waste treatment.

Air Quality

In addition to greenhouse gases, Covestro’s business activities result in other emissions into the air.

These other emissions into the air stem mainly from burning fossil fuels in order to generate electricity and steam. Emissions are also recorded and analyzed as part of determining the Group’s environmental impact. The impacts are assessed annually in the environmental management process with the Chief Technology Officer (CTO). In terms of other air emissions, the reported NMVOC emissions rose in particular. These additional emissions resulted chiefly at the sites operated by the Resins & Functional Materials business (RFM) acquired from Koninklijke DSM N.V., Heerlen (Netherlands).

Other important direct air emissions (1,000 metric tons p.a.)










































Non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC).


Ozone-depleting substances (ODS).

GRI/Global Reporting Initiative
Guidelines for the preparation of sustainability reports by companies, governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
TDI/toluylene diisocyanate
A chemical compound from the class of aromatic isocyanates, primarily used in polyurethane foams and coating systems
Circular economy
A regenerative economic system in which resource input, waste production, emissions, and energy consumption are minimized based on long-lasting and closed material and energy cycles.
HSEQ/Health, safety, environment, energy, and quality
Health, safety, environment, energy, and quality