Annual Report 2022

Aerial view of a plant with green overlay (graphic)

Environmental Impact of Own Operations

It goes without saying that, in line with our commitment to sustainable development, we always keep an eye on the environmental impact of our own operations. In accordance with our vision of becoming fully circular, we try to close material cycles. To this end, we also consider, for example, our own waste, which in turn plays a role in our efforts to reduce Scope 3 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The emissions into the air, waste, and wastewater associated with our business activities are an integral part of our integrated Health, Safety, Environment, Energy and Quality (HSEQ) management system. Responsibility for this has been assigned to the head of the corporate Group Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) function, who reports directly to the Board of Management.

Opportunities and risks associated with our operations are considered as part of Group-wide risk management.

Air Quality

In addition to GHGs, 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 into the air are also recorded and analyzed as part of determining the Group’s environmental impact, which is assessed annually in the environmental management process with the Chief Technology Officer (CTO).

Other important direct air emissions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2021

 

2022

 

 

1,000 metric tons p.a.

 

1,000 metric tons p.a.

CO

 

0.31

 

0.35

NOX

 

0.62

 

0.55

SOX

 

0.04

 

0.05

Dust

 

0.10

 

0.10

NMVOC1

 

0.16

 

0.17

ODS2

 

0.0002

 

0.0002

1

Non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC).

2

Ozone-depleting substances (ODS).

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.

In the reporting year, we again 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.

The method for assessing areas with water stress was revised in the year under review. As recommended by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), areas with water stress were determined using the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas of the World Resource Institute, based in Washington, D.C., (United States). In addition to physical risks such as water stress, our water risk assessment also includes potential regulatory risks at our production sites. Regulatory risks comprise, for example, access to drinking water or the Drinking Water Directives and other legal requirements. We also use other recognized tools to this end, such as the Water Risk Filter of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). Sites in current areas with water stress account for 0.2% of our total water consumption.

In order to establish a suitable format to enhance understanding of the local and future water situation, a water dashboard, which also covers physical water risks, was created in the reporting year and shared with our production sites. By analyzing the local water management at the sites, risks can be spotted at an early stage and potential for improvement can be identified. To drive water management and water protection, we have also set up a platform for regularly exchanging information and sharing best practice.

Use of water in the year 2022 (million cubic meters)

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

1 Areas with water stress taking into account overall physical risks such as water shortages, and water scarcity.

2 E.g., rainwater used.

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, condensate from the use of steam as a source of energy, and unused rainwater.

4 Also includes water for irrigation purposes.

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

At 233 million cubic meters, overall water usage in the Group is below the previous year’s figure. One reason for the decline is a reduction in the amount of water used in the plants along the Lower Rhine due to scaled-back production activity. The majority of the total volume of water used by Covestro (76%) 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 185 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 7 million cubic meters (previous year: 6 million cubic meters).

We calculate our total water consumption according to GRI Standard 303-5 (2018), which involves determining the difference between total water used and total water discharged. This resulted in calculated consumption (including, e.g., evaporation losses) of 4 million cubic meters.

The volume of process wastewater saw a year-over-year increase of 15%. 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 68% worldwide. Following an analysis, another 32% was categorized as environmentally safe and returned to the water cycle. Evaporation losses went up 26% in the reporting year to 14 million cubic meters.

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

Emissions into water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2021

 

2022

 

 

1,000 metric tons p.a.

 

1,000 metric tons p.a.

Phosphor

 

0.03

 

0.03

Nitrogen

 

0.29

 

0.18

TOC1

 

0.55

 

0.56

Heavy metals

 

0.0056

 

0.0036

Inorganic salts

 

737

 

781

1

Chemical oxygen demand (COD), calculated based on total organic carbon (TOC) values: 1.68 (TOC × 3 = COD).

Since the year 2021, Covestro has been involved in the collaborative “RIKovery” project, which is sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and drives salt water recycling activities. 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. The goal is to further increase concentrations and reduce the amount of energy required so that even more salt and water can be recovered. On the back of initial positive result, pilots of the technologies are now being prepared and are expected to be launched next year.

Waste

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 2022, the total volume of waste we generated decreased, mainly due to the general decline in production and the resulting drop in the volume of production-related waste. 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 (TDI) 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 production 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.

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 circular economy 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. Following the integration of the Resins & Functional Materials (RFM) business acquired from Koninklijke DSM N.V., Heerlen (Netherlands), the next step now is to evaluate the potential relevance for OCS and implement any measures accordingly.

The Plastics Europe association is in the process of enhancing the OCS program. All member companies are now required to take part in Operation Clean Sweep. Covestro started work on a proposal for an external certification system for the entire plastics value chain in cooperation with Plastics Europe and other members in the fiscal year 2019. The initial test runs were held in the year 2021, and the system is being rolled out to Plastics Europe members starting in fiscal 2022. Certification of the relevant sites is now also mandatory for all member companies.

Covestro had already added the topic of OCS to its HSEQ certifications in the year 2020. The next step will be to review and assess the measures, which were previously voluntary, and adapt them to the new certification requirements.

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 2022, we continued to harmonize our global waste data reporting. We aim to keep comparable the waste volumes generated at our sites around the world, but due to local legislation, this is not always possible. In particular the disposal of hazardous waste is subject to local definitions and regulations. Based on this information, we prepare and evaluate our annual waste report.

Waste generated

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2021

 

2022

 

 

1,000 metric tons p.a.

 

1,000 metric tons p.a.

Total waste generated

 

264

 

254

Non-hazardous waste generated

 

75

 

74

Hazardous waste generated1

 

189

 

180

of which hazardous waste from production

 

184

 

174

1

Definition of hazardous waste in accordance with local laws.

Waste by means of disposal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2021

 

2022

 

 

1,000 metric tons p.a.

 

1,000 metric tons p.a.

Total volume of waste treated1

 

264

 

256

Recovery

 

205

 

189

recycled waste

 

61

 

57

thermally recycled waste (with energy recovery)

 

144

 

132

Disposal

 

48

 

55

incinerated waste (without energy recovery)

 

33

 

31

hazardous waste removed to landfill

 

3

 

5

nonhazardous waste removed to landfill

 

12

 

19

Other2

 

11

 

12

1

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.

2

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

Circular Economy
A renewable economic system in which resource input, waste production, emissions, and energy consumption are minimized based on long-lasting and closed material and energy cycles.
GRI / Global Reporting Initiative
Guidelines on the preparation of sustainability reports by companies, governments, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
HSEQ / Health, Safety, Environment, Energy, and Quality
A commonly used abbreviation for health, safety, environment, energy, and quality.
TDI / Toluylene Diisocyanate
A chemical compound from the class of aromatic isocyanates, primarily used in polyurethane foams and coating systems.

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