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How sustainable are motion plastics?

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:

  • Emissions of gases and chemicals from the production of raw materials 
  • Abrasion during use 
  • Dependence on the fossil raw material oil

Goals:

  • By 2025, we want our buildings and production to be CO2-neutral.

Before ...

Production of plastics and parts

Diagram energy balance steel, aluminium, plastic

Energy balance

The production of 1 m³³ of plastic requires around 50% less energy than that of 1 m³³ of steel or aluminium.

Graph oil consumption of plastics

Oil consumption

The production of high-performance plastics accounts for just 0.5% of global oil consumption.

Icon flash in cycle

Power 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.

Icon cycle

99% recycled

99% of our rejects in injection-moulding production (sprues, defective parts) are recycled and returned to the manufacturing process.

Icon magnifying glass

clean igus programme

Mechanical measures such as magnetic foils and guide plates prevent parts from falling out of the machines in the production process and eventually becoming waste. The goal in 2021 is to reduce this waste by 80%.

Earth in front of green writing ISO 14001

Certified according to ISO 14001

In order to make our environmental policy transparent and comprehensible, we have been certified according to ISO standard 14001 since 2019, a recognised basis for environmental management systems. This helps us on our way towards a CO2-neutral factory.


In use ...

Plastics in use

Lubrication-free

27 million tonnes of grease pollute the worldwide environment every year. Our polymers do not require lubrication.

Oil can and globe

50% of all lubricants sold worldwide end up in the environment. (Source: M. P. Schneider, 2006)

Oil bottle and drinking water bottles

1 litre of oil contaminates 1,000,000 litres of drinking water. (Source: Saskatchewan Association for Resource Recovery Corp., 2008)

Car silhouette

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)

Map of the world with oil barrels

Global demand for lubricants will increase by 2 % annually, according to forecasts = 45.4 million tonnes in 2019. (Source: The Freedonia Group, 2015)

Sustainability - durable products

Service life

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.

More sustainable - less weight

Lightweight

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.

Sustainability - less friction

Energy saving

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.

Sustainability - smart plastics

Predictive maintenance

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.

Sustainability - bearing exchange

Replaceable parts

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.

Sustainability - iglidur N54

Biopolymers

With iglidur N54, we have developed a standard plain bearing that can be used universally and consists to 54% of renewable raw materials. The biopolymer bearing demonstrates that components can be sustainable, and motivates us in our future product development.


After ...

Plastics after their use

Graph conventional recycling

chainge Recycling Programme

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.

Graph Hydro Plastic Recycling Solution

Plastic2Oil

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.


Further measures we take to conserve resources