5.3 The environment in the operating processes
Bicycle-use helps to reduce the environmental impact of emissions from traffic, especially when bikes are used as an alternative to cars. However, producing bikes does have a negative environmental impact, because of the use of materials and energy, CO2 emissions and waste production.
Metals are a major component of bicycles,. there is a worldwide network for the recycling of metals. One of the most used materials in the bicycle industry is primary aluminium*. Aluminium is one of the most used materials within the bicycle industry because it is pure, high-grade and indispensable to guaranteeing the safety of bicycles. On a global scale, the demand for so-called secondary aluminium is so high that it is easy to find a market for the high percentage of material available for recycling. But there is still a structural demand for primary aluminium to fulfil the need. Accell Group believes that extensive research into the use of secondary aluminium in bicycles is not yet efficient. As part of its CSR strategy, Accell Group devotes extra attention to other materials and parts that have a relatively high impact on the environment.
* Primary or new aluminium is extracted from bauxite and its production requires a great deal of energy. The smelting of used aluminium products (scrap) into recycled or secondary aluminium requires only 5-10% of the amount of energy needed to produce primary aluminium.
This material is used in the frames of professional racing bikes. A frame made of carbon creates a 60% greater burden on the environment than an aluminium frame.
The strong increase in the number of e-bikes has made used batteries a growing issue in waste processing.
A key point given the large amount of packaging used to protect parts and final products.
The French Lapierre brand is a relatively large consumer of carbon within Accell Group and has taken on a leadership role in this issue. The end-of-line frames of Lapierre racing bikes have been tested by a carbon processing firm and are suitable for recycling. However, there is as yet no real commercial market for recycled carbon derived from bikes. In the short term, the returned carbon materials are collected, stored and transported in bulk to qualified processing plants.
Lapierre is following the developments in the field of carbon technology closely. Developments such as the possibility of producing high-grade fibres from basic materials other than carbon. This is currently still in the test phase.
Recycling batteries from e-bikes
Accell Group is actively cooperating in the creation of national and international systems for the collection and responsible processing of used e-bike batteries. Together with foundations in Germany (GRS), Belgium (Bebat) and the Netherlands (Stibat), we have already set up systems for the collection of bike batteries. Discarded batteries are collected from specialist retailers, sorted in a central location and sent to certified processing firms.
At the moment, the collected batteries consist mainly of the Lithium-Ion chemical system. The batteries are dismantled and the parts offered to raw materials producers and companies in the base metals industry.
Informing and encouraging the specialist retailers to make collection possible and actively promoting this among consumers will require serious efforts.
Accell Group’s policy is to replace packaging materials made from fossil sources with renewable materials. In other words, less plastic and more packaging based on paper and organic raw materials.
We monitor material use closely and benchmark the results of the Accell companies, so best practices are visible across the group and companies learn from each other. We monitor the amount of packaging material used on an annual basis, according to type of material and environmental impact.
Goal: to reduce the environmental impact of packaging materials in combination with the resultant waste flows (expressed in CO2 equivalents) by 2% to 4% per bicycle per annum.
In 2015, we reduced the environmental impact from packaging by 132 CO2 eq, which means an overall reduction of 3.5% compared to 2014. You can find more information about this goal under the header ‘waste’.
CO2 emissions and energy consumption
Accell Group’s strategy targets a reduction of CO2 emissions. Accell Group wants to use the targets for energy suppliers of the European Energy Efficiency Directive and reduce emissions by 1.5% per year. Research into the environmental impact of Accell Group’s operating processes shows that energy use has the greatest impact in terms of CO2 emissions. Energy is used for assembly and painting bicycles, and to heat and light production facilities, warehouses and offices. The transport of parts and distribution of products also consumes energy. Accell Group therefore considers energy use and transport and distribution important priorities.
Efforts are underway across the entire group to reduce Accell’s environmental impact:
- Switch from conventional lighting to LED. This effort has begun at most of the Accell Group companies.
- Many warehouses and offices are fitted with motion sensors, so lights are only on when someone is present.
- Companies have switched to more efficient and/or more sustainable heating systems.
- Increasing awareness among employees, such as encouraging them to turn off lights and computers.
- The companies are taking a critical look at the choice of transport modes for transport and distribution, and use trains wherever possible.
- A great deal of attention is being devoted to analysing the quality of the distribution processes, with the aim of limiting the number of damaged items returned. This saves money and transport kilometres.
- The number of kilometres employees fly is reduced by online meetings.
The results of these measures are monitored by annually measuring energy consumption and CO2 emissions. As in other material aspects, here too we benchmark the companies’ performances every year and they learn from each other’s best practices.
We moved to reporting in accordance with GRI G4 from 2015. The data includes the energy consumption of lease cars and kilometres driven for the company. We also added the data of the Asian companies, which makes a comparison with previous years irrelevant.
In addition to bicycles, accessories and parts, Accell companies also produce waste from their everyday operations. Waste that needs to be processed, which has an environmental impact to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the type of material and the processing method.
Accell Group’s policy is to separate waste before disposal and earmark it for recycling and/or reuse as much as possible. The opportunities to do so vary per country and even per region. Accell companies register waste flows to increase awareness among its management and employees and highlight upward or downward trends in the quantities of waste.
We benchmark the results, highlighting best practices, once again enabling our various companies to learn from each other. The amount of waste, divided into type of material and environmental impact, is monitored annually.
Goal: to reduce the environmental impact per bicycle from waste combined with packaging (expressed in CO2 equivalents) by 2% to 4% per annum.