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:
The production of 1 m³³ of plastic requires around 50% less energy than that of 1 m³³ of steel or aluminium.
The production of high-performance plastics accounts for just 0.5% of global oil consumption.
We are reducing the power of our machines and systems. We acquire injection-moulding machines that are 40% more energy efficient. Our goal is to reduce the energy demand by 15% in 2021, while increasing production.
99% of our rejects in injection-moulding production (sprues, defective parts) are recycled and returned to the manufacturing process.
27 million tonnes of grease pollute the worldwide environment every year. Our polymers do not require lubrication.
50% of all lubricants sold worldwide end up in the environment. (Source: M. P. Schneider, 2006)
1 litre of oil contaminates 1,000,000 litres of drinking water. (Source: Saskatchewan Association for Resource Recovery Corp., 2008)
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)
Global demand for lubricants will increase by 2 % annually, according to forecasts = 45.4 million tonnes in 2019. (Source: The Freedonia Group, 2015)
Our polymers are optimised for wear. They do not corrode and do not get dirty from grease and dirt. They last longer and don't have to be replaced often. Thanks to our numerous tests in the test laboratory, we can calculate their service life exactly.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We launched the energy chain recycling programme "chainge" for energy chains in 2019. Used energy chains can be sent to us, whether from igus or another manufacturer. You receive a value voucher, we separate by type and use the components ourselves or supply them to recycling partners.
We have invested 5 million euros in the company Mura Technology, which uses a new technology HydroPRS (Hydro Plastic Recycling Solution) to convert unsorted plastic waste into crude oil within 20 minutes. Conserving resources with pressure, temperature and water. Construction of the first large-scale plant started in April 2021.
What does igus do with electrical appliances after their service life has run out? Until recently, they went directly into waste disposal in large quantities: igus used to produce up to five tonnes of electronic waste every year. However, many devices are too valuable to be thrown away, which is why we put an end to this procedure. The task force reguse, a project group consisting of igus apprentices, saves everything that can still be used from electronic waste, e.g. laptops, PCs and monitors. They refurbish the old devices and offer them to all igus employees for a small amount of money. The proceeds is donated to sustainable projects.
Produce replacement parts made of wear-resistant iglidur tribo-polymers yourself - this possibility is now also available to private individuals. In the context of the project "3D printing replacement parts for everyone", we support repair cafés, open workshops and FabLabs with filament donations. They can obtain up to two rolls of filament per enquiry completely free of charge. More information about the project, which we are initially offering in German-speaking countries, is available on our information page.
In order for our extruders, which are needed for the production of bar stock, to function properly, they need cooling. For this purpose, cold water is passed through the machine. It heats up and there comes the crux of the matter - until now, clean water has been discharged directly back into the sewage system.
We now want to change this and are therefore building our own re-cooling plant. After passing through the machine, the water is then cooled down again in a cooling tower, stored and can be used again to cool the machine. We are already using it for our injection-moulding machines, and now an additional re-cooling system will also reduce the extruders' water consumption by more than half.
At the igus office in the sunshine country Spain, 29 solar panels have been installed on the roof. The electricity they generate covers one-third of the entire power requirement.
We have started a task force that works on projects dealing with environmental protection in our company.