"We sell for reuse or recycle almost 82% of the waste in our plant in Brande"

Madrid 14 October 2021

At Siemens Gamesa, we have many employees who are eager to make a difference for the environment. Be it designing turbines or procuring the most sustainable materials, they all want to contribute to a cleaner planet. One of these employees is Axel O. Soerensen from our nacelle Plant in Brande, Denmark. For almost 20 years, he and the waste management team have found clever ways to sort and handle waste in the plant and developed creative methods to turn waste into resources and thus help make Siemens Gamesa greener. In this story, Axel shares with us more information about his “green ways.”
Corporate Affairs Department
When first speaking to Axel, it becomes very clear that he is a humble person who prefers not being in the spotlight. “I am just doing what I think we should be doing,” he says and explains that “smart waste handling is something I have worked with ‘deliberately’ since 2002, when I first became responsible for sorting and handling waste. At that time, we were actually quite advanced within this area compared to what we saw in other places in society.”

But Axel thought that more could be done. “Even though we were good at this compared to others, there were still a lot of ways to improve. Back then, we were still disposing many things and I thought that there had to be a better way! In 2014, we reviewed and trimmed the entire waste setup.”

Now, in 2021, the plant is sorting production waste into more than 35 different fractions in order to handle the waste correctly and to ensure that as much as possible is recycled and reused. We asked Axel for some examples.
Reducing waste transport time
The distances for transporting waste with a forklift truck were reduced by 100 km per week due to an improved setup, which centralized the waste logistics. Instead of each department driving their waste quite far to be emptied, more centralized waste “spots” were set up to reduce everyone’s driving distance. These “spots” – containing a total of 450 containers – were then emptied by just one person who could pick up large volumes by using a truck platform able to lift more containers. This saved time and money, improved safety, and was better for the environment.
The transport of Styrofoam has also been greatly reduced after investing in a Styrofoam press. Before the press, the Styrofoam container had to be emptied 65 times a year. Now, the presser reduces the volume to take up 35 times less than before and the new press amount only requires the container to be emptied twice a year. This adds up to cost savings of more than 5,300 € every year. Another benefit is that the pressed Styrofoam blocks can be recycled instead of being combusted - typically used in the fishing or building industries. Lastly, it also saves a lot of CO2: In two consecutive fiscal years, the decrease in the use of transport saved almost 4,100 kg of CO2 – and the recycled Styrofoam of 12 tons brought another CO2 saving of 52,000 kg.
Auctioning scrap material

Years back, the company had to scrap various things and material which could no longer be used. But this changed when Axel set up a process where these items were sold instead. After an internal check to ensure that the items cannot be used anywhere else in the plant and that there are no confidential items, the items are thoroughly sorted, then sold at an auction. Items such as shelving, chemical products, and tools are among such items.

“A specific example is that we take large special pallets, which cannot be returned, and dismantle them to separate the wood. This wood is also sold at an auction and can then be used for new things. For instance, we are working together with two social help organizations – we give them recycled wood and the ones supported via these organizations, such as homeless people, work with it to create new things, which they then sell and generate a profit from.

When asked about how the comparison to “former days” – before all these initiatives – can be done, Axel explains:

It is very difficult to show, since the way we calculate recycling value has changed over the years. Earlier, we used to see how much waste was saved compared to MW produced. Today, we simply use total amount of waste saved. We can see that today, we sell for reuse or recycle almost 82% of our waste, which is a great achievement.
Axel O. Soerensen, HSE Coordinator
By recycling, we can earn a bit of money from the sale of used materials. But this is not the main driver when it comes to supplying to the auction – the key reason is to protect the environment, which is in the DNA of Siemens Gamesa.
Looking into the future
Reusing materials is one thing, but at the plant in Brande, they work a lot with avoiding waste altogether as well. Axel and team work together with the production, warehouse, and procurement departments to find ways of getting suppliers to pack their goods optimally. “We are in continuous dialogue with our procurement colleagues to determine which wrappings, special pallets and transport equipment can be returned to the suppliers. And we have also set up an exchange center where we can store equipment and tools that are not currently in use for the benefit of other departments,” Axel explains.

As Axel and his team continue to find new ways to improve the sorting and handling of waste, they find that particularly wood waste has a lot of potential. “Transportation equipment, special pallets, frames, and various other wood waste is taking up a lot of space at the plant. If we could find a way to get some of this back to the suppliers instead, it would be great. But the challenge especially arises when the suppliers are far from us, such as in China. We currently still have more chipped than we can return to suppliers, but we are constantly working on increasing the amount being returned,” Axel states.

Even though more difficult challenges lie ahead, Axel remains optimistic. “If there’s anything my experience with this topic has shown me and our team, it is that there are always better ways to do things. We just need to find the next clever one!”


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