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BMW adds supply chain emissions, packaging sustainability to climate change goals

BMW.
Photo by Luis Quintero

The BMW Group is building out its sustainability transformation through its supply chain, concentrating on its logistics operations.

BMW’s latest announcement builds on its prior commitment to combat climate change and improve the lifecycle sustainability footprint of its vehicles.

The success of a pilot program currently underway to use 100% recycled material in packaging could form the standard for new contracts from 2024 onwards.

However, applying previously announced circular economy goals across all models and lines is not imminent, with the BMW i Vision Circular concept only planned for 2040.

BMW (GER:BMW) has announced new initiatives aimed at reducing supply chain emissions and improving packaging sustainability in its logistics operations, adding to its efforts to combat climate change.

In 2021 the group said it would seek to mitigate climate change by reducing vehicle emissions throughout its lifecycle, focus on circular economy principles, and increase the use of recycled materials.

Building on climate change and sustainability goals

BMW seeks to build on its goal of avoiding 200 million tonnes of CO2 emissions by 2030, by increasing the amount of recycled materials used in packaging in its logistics operations. Overall, it is targeting a 20% reduction in supply chain CO2 emissions  by 2030.

In 2021, the company announced it would promote the use of recycled and reusable materials to 50% by 2030, and has also established a project with BASF (GER:BAS) and ALBA Group to increase the recycling of plastics from cars.

With an ambition to find and use alternatives to virgin raw materials across its operations, BMW is also launching pilot projects to investigate replacing oil-based polyethylene and polypropylene with bio-based materials.

Pilot programs using more recycled materials underway

BMW says using 25% recycled material in expanded polypropylene (EPP), used in special flexible containers for packaging components, can save 280 tons of CO2 across the 360,000 containers used every year. The recycled material will become the required standard from 2024, subject to a pilot program currently underway using 100% recycled material.

A further 680 tons of annual CO2 emissions can be reduced annually using covers and small load carriers with 50% recycled materials, according to the company. Also, in 2022, folding plastic pallet cages made from 90% recycled material will replace steel ones, saving a further 3,000 tons in annual CO2 emissions.

While the current initiatives are focused on markets in Europe, it expects to expand these to its facilities in the US, China and Mexico. The impact of the various individual measures being implemented will be monitored through a CO2 calculator.

Michael Nikolaides, Head of the BMW Group Production Network and Logistics: “Our ‘re:think, re:duce, re:use, re:cycle’ approach is being implemented consistently in packaging logistics, too. We’re using innovative strategies to consistently reduce the volume of resources we use, thus reducing our carbon footprint. We in Logistics are also doing our part to get the BMW iFACTORY up and running – with a particular focus on the ‘green’ side of things.”

Circular economy goals slow to spread across all lines and models

BMW has said it regards its circular economy goals as a key driver in helping reduce its carbon footprint, yet its first fully circular economy-based concept car isn’t planned until 2040. This would include all the aspects of a car’s lifecycle including design, development, manufacture and beyond. Increasing the use of recyclable, and low-emissions materials are steps in the right direction, but more needs to be done to accelerate the pace of change towards circularity.

The World Economic Forum and the World Business Council’s ‘Circular Cars Initiative’ launched at Davos in 2020 is attempting to accelerate circular economy business models in the automotive and mobility industry.

The EU, which leads other major economic regions on its climate change and sustainability issues, has a range of initiatives to address circular economy issues in place. Yet, like its End-of-life Vehicles (ELV) directive, which has been in place since 2000, there is a disconnect between policy and implementation.

An evaluation and review to revise the ELV may result in proposed legislation this year. Among the most glaring shortcomings of the ELC appears to be a lack of fully extended producer responsibility.

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