Natural resources, materials and waste management
GF believes it is essential to promote responsible resource and waste management. Therefore, using a holistic approach, it is redesigning its production processes to improve sustainability and close material loops.
The company relies on various natural resources and other materials to manufacture its high-quality products. At the same time, GF has assessed the environmental impacts of its direct operations and found that waste generated during production is one of the largest components of its environmental footprint.26 Although the majority of GF’s waste is non-hazardous, the company has a responsibility to minimize both hazardous and non-hazardous waste. Therefore, GF is striving to implement circular economy principles wherever possible, including finding new and effective ways to reuse and recycle materials.
GF’s Sustainability Framework emphasizes the company’s aim to improve its waste disposal methods. The framework sets a target to reduce the intensity of waste (hazardous and non-hazardous) sent to landfill or incineration by 20% by 2025, compared with the average for 2018–2020.
To reach this target, GF is continually working to minimize waste, identify new recycling methods and apply circular economy approaches to the materials used by its three divisions. Many of the waste materials from GF’s production processes can be reused by other industrial companies, helping to reduce the overall demand for energy and resources. Some examples include using GF’s manufacturing by-products as a substitute for fossil fuels or as inputs for cement production. The castings from GF Casting Solutions are also 100% recyclable and can be reused in a circular fashion, regardless of whether they are made of aluminum or magnesium.
GF’s adoption of circular economy principles
The three GF divisions have put on their agenda initiatives that focus on sourcing reusable materials and components, as well as revising GF’s waste management processes to enable reuse.
In 2021, GF launched a circular economy project with a series of cross-divisional workshops to develop a shared understanding of the circular economy concept and initiatives to promote its adoption. The project defined six new pilot programs to improve the way GF designs, produces, repairs and re-manufactures its products. GF will implement these projects throughout 2022.
Furthermore, GF conducted various activities to ensure its products offer the greatest lifetime value, and worked to extend their lifespans by reusing, refurbishing, remanufacturing and recycling them after their primary use. This includes circular economy activities using the value hill model.
In 2021, GF Piping Systems realized a new initiative at its site in Ettenheim (Germany). The objective was to rework fluoropolymers generated as rejects in the production process for the manufacturing of new products. In the project, a pipe series was implemented made from 100% of the site’s own reworked polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF). These SYGEF Eco pipes meet high quality standards. Reworked PVDF granules cause up to 90% less CO2e emissions than new ones, as most of the CO2e emissions occur during the initial production process of the original PVDF granules. In addition to improving the carbon footprint of fluoropolymers, this process helps to tackle the extremely tight global PVDF raw materials situation – and it is a promising use case for the circular economy approach.
GF’s environmental management systems oversee the planning (objective and target setting) and monitoring of waste in its facilities. In its Corporate Environmental Policy, GF commits to reducing its use of harmful substances, seeking new opportunities to lower its raw material consumption and applying circular economy principles to its material sourcing. Wherever possible, GF will explore and apply recycling methods. In cases where it is unavoidable, the company is committed to reducing the amount of waste it sends to landfill or incineration, especially when involving hazardous waste. The GF Code for Business Partners, sets out clear guidelines for our business partners to avoid and reduce waste.
Amount and composition of waste
Composition of waste
In the year under review, GF’s total amount of waste increased by 25% compared to 2020 (a 4% increase from the pre-COVID-19 year of 2019). The share of hazardous waste increased from 12% in 2020 to 20% in 2021, with 80% of GF’s total waste being non-hazardous. This growth is due to the dismantling and relocation of a GF Casting Solutions site. Six production facilities of GF Casting Solutions and two production facilities of GF Piping Systems account for 90% of GF’s total hazardous waste. Some of these facilities have site-specific targets to reduce hazardous waste and track them at the site level.
In line with the increase of GF’s order intake (28% in 2021), the waste volume also increased. Some of this increase is due to a GF Castings Solutions site that started reporting in 2021, and another site that is still in the ramp-up phase.
GF recycles the majority of its waste (71%). Most of the waste which cannot be recycled is either form-sand used in iron foundries or waste-water sludge, a byproduct of on-site waste-water treatment used in the casting process. Where possible, GF treats this waste on-site, which allows the treated water to be dispatched into public or private sewer systems. In cases where it cannot be processed on-site, it is discharged in compliance with local and federal requirements. In addition, some GF companies sold their waste material in 2021, which generated additional income and highlighted the value of a circular economy approach.
In addition to the high percentage of recycled waste, GF also designs its products and solutions to last for a very long time. Examples include:
- solutions from GF Piping Systems that last 50 years or longer, machines from GF Machining Solutions that can be used for 20 years;
- components from GF Casting Solutions that can be remelted infinitely, due to the embedded material stamps that identify the makeup of their respective alloys used; and
- machines from GF Machining Solutions that can be used for 20 years,
Target achievement: Unrecycled waste intensity
Unrecycled waste intensity index27
(unrecycled waste per production volume28) in %
As described above, GF set targets in its Sustainability Framework to reduce waste intensity (hazardous and non-hazardous) sent to landfill or incineration by 20% by 2025 compared to the average for 2018–2020.
At the end of 2021, the unrecycled waste intensity index was 9% below the baseline (2018–2020 average) and thus in line with GF’s Sustainability Framework target. This achievement was mainly due to comprehensive waste data from a waste-management partner at one of GF Casting Solutions’ sites, and a recycling project started by GF Piping Systems. In addition, non-recycled waste increased at a lower rate than the production volume increase, which also contributed to achieving this target.
In 2021, a GF Piping Systems site in Irvine (USA) started preventing disc leftovers from ending up in landfills. A particular part made at the site creates a large disc leftover when it is machined, and whereas it was previously discarded, the site now uses it to machine new parts that can reuse this disc.