The impact of climate change must be addressed immediately
We cannot continue to emit increasing amounts of CO². There needs to be a sharp deceleration of this.
We are already seeing the effects of global CO2 emissions. Many people are experiencing extreme weather with storms, torrential rain, drought, high waters – all results of global warming.
CO2 emissions from fossil fuels are one of the primary causes of global warming. We must all take responsibility. Even an environmental company like RGS Nordic, which generally has a positive impact on the environment by virtue of our activities, contributes to CO2 emissions. This is done in our activities and from the associated transport.
We will take responsibility for minimising our climate impact. First and foremost, we will identify the impact our activities have on the climate, and then we will put this knowledge into perspective so that everyone in our value chain, including our selves, can act on a solid knowledge base and make the most sustainable choices.
Identifying CO2 emissions from RGS Nordic’s activities
We have identified the total amount of CO2 emissions we produce through our operations in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The survey includes our direct fuel consumption by machinery and vehicles and our consumption of electricity, equivalent to Scope 1 and 2 of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. It does not include emissions from in-situ projects outside our own
plants. The survey gives us a general overview of the direct and indirect CO2 emissions from our activities, and a basis for reducing our emissions.
Our total CO2 emissions are 7,500 tonnes per year (Scope 1 + 2), of which 84% comes from the operation of machinery, 5% from company vehicles, and 11% from the consumption of electricity. In the following we will show how we are looking inward to reduce our emissions and how we are helping our customers make sustainable choices based on factual knowledge.
Greenhouse gas accounting for the treating of soil and waste at our plants
The majority of CO2 emissions comes from the consumption of fuel for our machines. Over the past year, we have made significant investments in replacing machinery (shredders, soil screeners, material sorters, loaders and small equipment) with more fuel-efficient models, which have improved our fuel economy by 14%. We have also focused on idling, so that machines do not use unnecessary amounts of fuel. Despite an increased turnover of 25–30%, fuel consumption remained unchanged, which means that our total fuel savings due to more fuel efficient machines and a focus on idling are at the level of 20%.
Greenhouse gas accounting for the biological treatment of wastewater
In our water treatment we are going one step further in collaborating with the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) to prepare greenhouse gas accounting according to the guidelines in the Greenhouse Gas Protocol and the principles and requirements for quantification and reporting according to ISO 14064-1.
Greenhouse gas accounting assesses the activities which are under our operational control. Greenhouse gas accounting includes our direct emissions (Scope 1) from the use of fuel and respiration from bacteria culture at the plant in Stigsnæs, Denmark; indirect emissions from electricity consumption (Scope 2); as well as indirect emissions from the purchase of goods, such as regeneration of carbon filters, services and downstream processing of sludge for treatment (Scope 3). Our total emissions of greenhouse gases in 2018, primarily CO 2, totalled 8,800 tonnes CO2 eq./year.
The carbon footprint of our wastewater treatment
The carbon footprint indicates the relative CO2 emission during a process, which for our biological wastewater plant is the treatment of 1 tonne of wastewater.
Our carbon footprint for the biological treatment of waste water is in the range of 21 ± 5 kg of CO2 for each tonne ofwastewater treated. The variation in the carbon footprint is primarily attributable to differences in the content of organic matter, as higher content results in a heavier carbon footprint. In comparison, our carbon footprint for the incineration of wastewater is nearly 1,000 kg CO2 per tonne.
The biological treatment of wastewater emits CO2 emissions that are 50 times less than treatment by incineration. The significant reduction in CO2 emissions compensates for any transport of wastewater over very long distances.
Treatment of contaminated soil at RGS Nordic saves CO2
The normal practice for soil with a high contamination level (over MKM) in Sweden is for everything to be disposed of. When treated at RGS Nordic, boulders are discarded and soil
is classified. Depending on this classification, the soil can be used more optimally for topsoil and landfill. This approach provides environmental benefits because:
• the use of landfills is minimised
• the impacts of landfills are reduced
• soil is recovered for topsoil or other purposes
• the use of natural stone is reduced
• transport is more optimal
Overall, this means that the CO2 emissions from the conventional approach are more than 50% greater than with RGS Nordic’s approach. [Livscykelanalys återvinning förorenadjord, Miljögraff, 2014].
In-situ treatment of soil is an eco-friendly solution
Biological treatment of soil that is contaminated with, for example, oil, or other biologically decomposable pollutants, can be made in the ground (in-situ), on-site after excavation or off-site at a plant after excavation and moving.
CO2 emissions from the various methods depend on the level of treatment. In-situ treatment, uniquely, emits the lowest CO2 emission, whereas the treatment of excavated soil emits approximately 50% more CO2 emissions due to mechanical handling during excavation. Treatment at a plant further increases CO2 emissions due to transport: transport over 50–150 km creates an increase of 400–800%. In-situ treatment is clearly the most climate-friendly method. [Carbon Footprint från efterbehandling av förorenade områden, SGF projekt, 2010].
Optimised transport reduces the carbon footprint
Transport is closely linked to our activities. Millions of tonnes of materials, natural resources and wastewater are delivered to our plants by lorry. On top of this comes transport between our plants for treatment, and subsequent transport out for further disposition.
In 2018, we focused on optimising fuel consumption for external transport, using our disposition costs as an indicator,since they are strongly associated with transport costs. We had a target of reducing them by 2% per year. This target has not been achieved. Our disposition costs are unchanged, primarily due to local disposal options having closed.
Ship transport often results in reduced CO2 emissions
As our plants are located near ports, we can often offer transportation by ship as an alternative to lorries. There is a big difference between CO2 emissions from transporting by ship and by lorry, so if even there is a smaller need for transport by lorry, ship transport can often pay off. We have experienced CO2 savings of up to 50% by using a mix of ship and lorry transport. We can thus incorporate the climate impact of both our own treatments and the adjoining transport into the overall footprint for waste treatment when collaborating with us.
Fewer empty lorry trips
Every day, more than 1,000 lorries drive in and out of RGS Nordic’s plants. A large proportion of these lorries are empty when they drive one direction. These empty trips produce unnecessary CO2 emissions.
In 2018, RGS Nordic participated in a development project under the UNDP and Deloitte in which we worked with the UN’s Global Goals. Our approach is to provide data to external partners so that they can optimise their operations and thereby reduce the number of empty trips driven. This will reduce CO2 emissions, create a better transport economy
and result in significantly closer collaboration with customers. The project was completed under the UNDP, and we are continuing to work on the project in collaboration with hauliers. This project supports SDG #11: the climate, and SDG #17: collaboration.
We are focussing on all environmental footprints
Overall, we have a positive impact on the environment, and our core business saves society a lot of resources. However, our activities also cause a negative environmental impact, as we cannot avoid consuming resources and releasing emissions such as wastewater, dust and odours into the environment. We are very conscious of the environmental footprint we leave, and we focus on making it as sustainable as possible.
We discharge treated water into municipal wastewater treatment plants or directly into the sea. We focus on making sure that these emissions are in full compliance with regulations. In 2018 the BREFs for waste water treatment were completed, which means that the new BAT conclusions should be implemented before 2022. RGS Nordic has contributed data from our waste water treatment plants to these BAT conclusions, and we are already in compliance with the new rules. Similarly, we are working hard on the challenges of dust and odours.
The quality of materials can have an impact on the environment
No soil or waste material is pristinely clean; it will always have a certain content of substances or physical materials. Our job is to ensure that this content is well-documented and that the disposition of soil and materials is done without unacceptable impacts on our shared environment. There must be consistency between the environmental quality and usage of soil and materials. We achieve this through sound documentation and dialogue with users.
Read more about this in our Environmental Report here
Ebbe Tubæk Naamansen
Head of Group Sustainability
Marketing & Communication Manager