Electrolux is a global manufacturer of household and professional appliances. Every year we put approx. 60 million product on the market, representing between 5 and 10 % of all the appliances sold in the world.
To produce these products, Electrolux is using more than 700,000 tons of steel (equivalent of 100 Eifel towers) 35,000 tons of aluminum 25,000 tons of copper 300,000 tons of plastics
Including the use phase, the total life cycle impact of one year production is approx. 35 million tons of carbon dioxide – similar to a small state like Denmark, Ireland or New Zeeland. It has been estimated that all household appliances globally represent approx. 1% of the world’s CO2 emissions.
During the next 15 years the global middle class – the market for appliances – is expected to grow from 3 billion to 5 billion people.
The average lifetime of appliances is long; 10 to 12 years for washing machines and dishwashers, over 15 years for refrigerators.
The circle diagram shows the average impact of 11 different European appliances from year 2000.
The main environmental impact occurs during the use phase of the product.
Since 2000, energy efficiency of appliances have improved considerably. The average appliance today uses about half of the energy compared to 2000. The best appliance today uses 70 percent less.
Even with this improvement that has been achieved over the last 15 years, the use phase is still representing 70% to 80% of life cycle emissions.
When comparing and addressing the impact of different environmental aspects, it should always be based on the total lifecycle impact.
For appliances it means that: the use phase must still be the highest priority. it could be more favorable to retire an old appliance instead of prolong its life other aspects - like the impact of materials - are becoming even more important
Circular economy is often addressing the use of plastics. It should be acknowledged that plastics are necessary for the huge improvements in energy efficiency and reduction in cost that we have seen.
For Electrolux, the impact of the plastic materials represents approx. 1 million ton of carbon dioxide. To improve material efficiency is a priority.
In 2008 Electrolux introduced recycled materials with the launch of the green range of vacuum cleaners. Products had 50% lower energy consumption, low noise level and up to 30% recycled plastics
We also supported the Five Gyres organization which is fighting plastic pollution in the oceans. Our message - called Vac from the Sea - was that it is absurd that the oceans are polluted with plastic waste at the same time as we cannot find enough recycled material to use in products.
The launch was a great success, and recycled plastics was very well received by consumers.
This confirms the result from our global consumer research, where we have found that more than 2 out of 3 say that environmental impact is “important” to “extremely important” in their purchasing decision, and using recycled material is among the top 5 things consumer want from manufacturers to do.
We have also introduced recycled plastics in large household appliances.
The critical issues for this development are: The supply base is limited. We need suppliers with large quantities of materials with consistent properties. The recycled materials have to be treated as specified plastic. Due to the degradation of the plastics, recycled materials have slightly lower mechanical properties. This means that it is not a drop-in solution. Recycled materials may have a discoloration or may have a pigmentation from the previous life cycle making it unsuitable for esthetic application. Material degradation may also result in unpleasant odors. We must secure compliance with substance regulations, e.g. REACH and RoHS. This makes mixed waste streams unsuitable for our applications. Recycled materials are not used for food contact applications The social conditions when collecting and sorting recycled plastics may not comply with requirements for decent working conditions. The risk is high in developing markets. The processing equipment may have to be modified to suit recycled plastics, and maintenance of equipment is usually higher. At the end, the total cost in the application has to be favorable, including the additional work that is required to secure the quality.
In order to manage the critical issues for recycled material Electrolux has developed strict procedures. Material formulations. Electrolux has developed a number of grades based on recycled materials. Technical guidelines for suppliers has been developed. It specifies what type of plastics that are allowed to be used and how the supplier must keep track of how it is recycled. Specific substance requirements have been decided. Audit of suppliers are conducted to verify the process control, quality and capability- if necessary we are using 3rd party verification of the material Material approval according to internal specifications. Each grade of recycled material is regarded as a unique material. Finally, since the recycled material is different from the material the component has been designed for, it has to be approved again. Industrial trials. As a producer we have integrated the business vertically and have taken over the role as a material supplier, but with a different source of the feedstock.
Today Electrolux is using approx. 6,000 tons of recycled plastics, representing 8% of the total use of thermoplastics in Europe. Until now, the growth has been 60% per year.
In order to accelerate the development a global team has been established including purchasing, quality, R&D, and manufacturing. The objective is to leverage the experience from Europe and to introduce similar programs in other markets.
Our strategy is to identify possible applications, to develop the supply base, to qualify new applications with existing grades, and to develop recycled materials for new applications.
The business case for Electrolux is summarized in three points: Lower cost for materials Reduced environmental impact of products Building relationships with customers and consumers
A preliminary, long term target is that the recycled materials should account for 30% of total volume of thermoplastics in 2025.
Resource Efficiency and the Transition towards the
- the Electrolux experience
Henrik Sundström, VP Sustainability, AB Electrolux
September 29, 2016
This is Electrolux
SEK 124 bn
in 60 countries
The deciding factor – the life cycle impact
- 50% better
- 70% better
15 year old product
Improving material efficiency in products
• Ultrasilencer Green
- launched in 2008
- lower energy consumption
• Full range with recycled plastics
• Vac from the Sea
• Very good market acceptance
Critical issues for recycled plastics
• Availability of material
• Material degradation
• Substance regulations
• Conditions in the supply chain
• Modification of equipment
• Final cost in application
A rigorous process control for recycled plastics
Supplier GuidelinesChemical Requirements Material Specification
The way forward, expanding the program globally
Up to 70% recycled plastics 14% recycled plastics
Use of recycled plastics is:
• Reducing cost
• Reducing the environmental impact
• Building relationships with stakeholders