Zero Waste: How can we manage to avoid waste?
15.10.2023 | Sustainability
As the “creators of tomorrow’s mobility”, we develop E-Bikes that help to support a sustainable lifestyle. We also endeavour to make our business operations as environmentally and socially responsible as possible. It starts at our site in Mühltal, where we are working to avoid waste and consciously recycle it. A few select current sustainability projects as part of our “Zero Waste” mission.
Packaged and parcelled
Every day, parts from numerous suppliers arrive at our premises, packed in films, boxes and on wooden pallets. This shipping material forms the bulk of our total waste stream – a critical starting point to reduce waste.
Therefore, since the beginning of 2022, our incoming goods inspection has also checked the quality of the packaging of components on the basis of zero waste criteria:
• How good is the utilisation of outer packaging to content?
• Is there any needless doubling-up of packaging?
• Is there any filling material in the box that can be left out?
We communicated 159 suggestions for improvement to our suppliers last year based on this review. Over half of them are currently being worked on and 14% have already been implemented.
Again and again, our recycling is working
We reuse the packaging material from suppliers, especially cardboard, wood and film: cardboard boxes are shredded and used as filling for shipments, and we cut up bubble wrap to protect parts of finished bikes from damage.
In addition to small amounts of mixed scrap and aluminium, we systematically recycle what we cannot reuse, thereby achieving a recycling rate of over 90%. This percentage rate remained stable even with our higher production figures last year.
PROTECTIVE TAPE IN SHIPPING
How much adhesive tape do we need?
We pack our bikes in cardboard boxes to ship them and also protect them from damage in transit with bubble wrap and adhesive tape. While we re-use the film from our suppliers’ packaging, we have to use new adhesive tape. In order to reduce the use of this adhesive tape, we have analysed and completely revised the packaging guidelines for our models.
The result: we were able to reduce the use of adhesive tape by over 65%, around 40 cm per bike. We are therefore saving around 45,000 m of adhesive tape each year, over 900 rolls, when this is extrapolated to all the bikes we produce.
We have also achieved improvements in the shipping of small components. By switching from film adhesive tape to paper tape, we have been able to reduce the amount of plastic waste in our packaging. Paper-based tape is much easier to have involved in the recycling process.
We thus avoid some 350 rolls of film adhesive tape with over 44,000 small packages shipped.
Waste generated at the Riese & Müller site in Mühltal in the 2021/22 business year
More and more people are opting for climate-friendly everyday mobility and switching to an E-Bike or Cargo Bike. We were thus also able to grow significantly in the 2021/22 business year and sold 17.53 % more bikes than in the previous year. To produce more bikes, however, we need more resources.
Our aim is to continuously reduce the total amount of waste produced and thus lower the volume of waste generated for every bike we produce. External circumstances also account for the fact that this percentage has increased slightly over the past three years.
Among other factors, rising wood prices and the global logistics crisis during the pandemic led to a worldwide shortage of euro pallets. As a result, many of our suppliers had to resort to temporarily using simpler disposable pallets, which we cannot reuse and need to recycle.
At the same time, in times of uncertain supply chains, we have systematically pursued the strategy of the permanent availability of parts in order to be able to continuously deliver. As a result, packaging waste from supplied components went into the recycling last year , some of which we still have in storage.
We therefore expect a steadily decreasing percentage of waste per bike in future, through close dialogue with our suppliers as well, in order to achieve further progress in reducing packaging.
It’s all about the colour
Working closely with our frame suppliers, last year we converted almost the entire range of models to monocoloured frames.
In the past, the two-tone paint finish of some of our bikes had produced disproportionately large volumes of cover film and additional paint – which we could no longer accept.
This applies to the Multicharger Mixte, Supercharger, Superdelite and Nevo models, with the exception of the red Nevo, which cannot be adapted for design reasons. Without significantly changing the colour design, this has allowed us to save an average of 52 g of paint, 5 m of tape and 2 m2 of film per bike.
Valuable to the very end
The batteries of our E-Bikes are high-quality components that can largely be recycled at the end of their intended use time. This enables the precious raw materials contained in the batteries to be reused.
The prerequisite for this is a standardised, comprehensive and professional return of used batteries. Riese & Müller currently supports battery return systems in 17 countries, which equates to 97.3% of our sales volume. In Germany, for example, we participate in the GRS Foundation (Gemeinsames Rücknahmesystem Batterien – Common Battery Return System).
In the past business year, we invested almost €230,000 in the collection, pick-up and recycling of batteries for this purpose. We are therefore making an important contribution to the environmentally friendly disposal and reuse of battery components.
We will be the most sustainable company in the E-Bike sector by 2025.
In the almost 30 years since our company was established, it has always been our ambition to develop innovative folding bikes, bicycles and E-Bikes for everyday use, and to produce them in a resource-conserving manner. We have remained true to these basic principles to this day. Since 2019, part of our corporate strategy has also included the endeavour to make our business operations as environmentally and socially responsible as possible.
To achieve this, we are working to further reduce our CO₂ emissions, advancing waste-prevention projects and screening our supply chains for social and environmental risks. We are working towards maximum transparency across the entire value chain and are in direct contact with suppliers and partners. We want our actions to encourage other companies in the cycling industry and to lead by example and personal commitment.
Sustainable business is not optional, especially in times of crisis – it is a necessity for real change and a basic prerequisite for lasting success.
Find out more in our third Responsibility Report.