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Plastic is a much-discussed material. We know that high-performance polymers can make a contribution to the protection of resources and to the environment, and have made this the focus of our corporate activities.
We look at plastics in three phases: during their production, in use and at the end of the product's life. On this page, we show you our answers to the question of sustainability, both in terms of our products and in everyday life at igus. Not everything has been answered yet, and for some things, especially with regard to sustainable production, we are still working on answers and solutions.
Still to be solved:
After the changeover of the iglidur tribofilament i150, the tribofilaments iglidur i151, i180 and i180-BL are now also available on a 750g cardboard spool. Cardboard filament spools have a 50% lower CO2 footprint than conventional polypropylene spools and are much easier for users to recycle.
94% of the new iglidur N94 plain-bearing material is renewable. The material also offers the classic iglidur advantages. It has been optimised for lubrication-free dry operation and allows for precise calculation of service life in plain-bearing applications.
In our slewing ring bearing iglidur PRT-02-30-ECO, we use regranulate from our own production. The material combination selected here, iglidur P4 and iglidur M260, work very well together and produce a long service life.
We have carried out tests on the coefficient of friction and the wear rate of our materials on wooden shafts. Plain bearings and liners made from the materials iglidur® J and J4 were tested on various wooden shafts and compared with metal shafts. In short: drylin linear technology works with wood.
Our new material xirodur ECO B180 consists of raw materials that have already been used, such as sprue from injection-moulding production, and is processed back into plastic granulate in an in-house process. Finally, production via injection moulding results in an ECO all-rounder in green with recycled inner and outer rings made of dyed xirodur B180 and a cage made from recycled iglidur material.
The production of 1 m³ of plastic requires around 50% less energy than that of 1 m³ of steel or aluminium.
The production of high-performance plastics accounts for just 0.5% of global oil consumption.
All of the electricity we purchase is green, and we are reducing the amount of power our machinery and equipment consume. We are acquiring injection moulding machines that are 40% more energy efficient and replacing old ones. We reduced power consumption by 11% in 2021 even as we increased production hours.
99% of our rejects in injection-moulding production (sprues, defective parts) are recycled and returned to the manufacturing process.
Mechanical measures such as magnetic foils and guide plates prevent parts from falling out of the machines in the production process and becoming waste. We reduced our waste ratio (production waste + processed material) by 21% in 2021 thanks to these and other measures.
In order to make our environmental policy transparent and comprehensible, we have been certified according to ISO standard 14001 since 2019, an internationally recognised basis for environmental management systems. This helps us on our way towards a CO2-neutral factory.
Our energy management system is certified according to international standards. The main goal of the ISO 50001 standard is to help companies improve their energy-related performance by setting up systems and processes.
27 million tonnes of grease pollute the worldwide environment every year. Our polymers do not require lubrication.
50% of all lubricants sold worldwide end up in the environment. (Source: M. P. Schneider, 2006)
1 litre of oil contaminates 1,000,000 litres of drinking water. (Source: Saskatchewan Association for Resource Recovery Corp., 2008)
1/3 of the total fuel consumption of a passenger car is used to overcome friction in the engine, gearbox, tyres and brakes. (Source: K. Holmberg, P. Andersson, A. Erdemir, 2012)
Global demand for lubricants will increase by 2 % annually, according to forecasts = 45.4 million tonnes in 2019. (Source: The Freedonia Group, 2015)
Our polymers are optimised for wear. They do not corrode and do not get dirty from grease and dirt. They last longer and don't have to be replaced often. Thanks to our numerous tests in the test laboratory, we can calculate their service life exactly.
Plastic is lighter than steel and saves weight and therefore energy, which has to be applied for the movement. In an aeroplane, this amounts to roughly 4kg if iglidur plain bearings are used instead of metal-rolled bearings. This again positively impacts kerosene consumption.
Our polymers are tribologically optimised and have low friction. Together with the lower weight, this ensures that less drive energy has to be used to move a machine part in an application.
Components are not replaced until they have reached the end of their product life cycle - this is the idea behind our smart plastics product range. Sensors indicate wear and parts are replaced when really necessary; resources are used carefully and rationally.
Not having to replace the entire application when wear occurs was one of the leading ideas when we developed our exchange bearings for linear guides. The rail is not damaged and the bearing housing can be reused. This conserves resources - and simultaneously results in lower costs.
With iglidur N54, we have developed a standard plain bearing that can be used universally and consists to 54% of renewable raw materials. The biopolymer bearing demonstrates that components can be sustainable, and motivates us in our future product development.
We recycle old plastic energy chains, not just our own, but from any manufacturer. Our program is unique and was awarded the Rhineland Business Prize in September 2022, in the category "Sustainability". We deliver the material to our production or recycling partners, and you will receive a value voucher per kilo of energy chain. As of 12/2021, we have already received 25.97 tons of material. Join us!
We have invested five million euros in Mura Technologie, a company that uses a new technology, HydroPRS (Hydro Plastic Recycling Solution), to convert unsorted plastic waste to crude oil within 20 minutes. Conserves resources with pressure, temperature, and water. Construction of the first large-scale plant started in April 2021, and more and more companies are cooperating with Mura Technology.
Heating with gas, is that necessary? A lot of heat is generated in the production process, so you have to be able to do something with it? How do we manage to use the waste heat? That's what a team of igus engineers asked themselves and started trying it out. The result: the concept for a heater that uses the waste heat from machines. The plan: to no longer heat any buildings at the company's Cologne site with gas and to make the concept freely available to engineers and mechanical engineers, i.e. to industry. We call it MHRS - Machine Heat Recovery System.
8 to 12 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans every year, mostly via rivers. Plastic Fischer's approach of collecting waste in the rivers is cheaper than getting it out of the sea. How does the project work? Local people use special devices to fish the rubbish out of rivers and receive a regular income in return. The collected plastic waste, which is mostly classified as non-recyclable, is forwarded to thermal treatment plants: it is incinerated with energy recovery. Altogether, igus funds the collection of 10,000kg of plastic waste. In January 2023, Plastic Fischer was able to collect and process 3,340kg of plastic in Kanput and Mangalore (India). This gave at least 34 people a regular income and, on some days, additional workers helped out.
Every day, a ton of waste floats down the Rhine into the North Sea. That is an enormous amount. For years, K.R.A.K.E. ("Krake" is the German word for octopus), a Cologne-based association, has been combatting rubbish in and on the Rhine. The association took a big step forward in September 2022 with a floating waste trap. Waste floating on the surface drifts into the London-style passive trap. Association members regularly empty the trap and record the waste on land, scientifically evaluating it in cooperation with the University of Bonn. The hope is for this to give rise to a long-term study on plastic waste on the Rhine. We are delighted to be a sponsor of this courageous project, wish it every success, and thank those involved for their commitment.
It started as a Christmas gift for customers and now there are several campaigns, not only in Germany, but also in Turkey, Mexico and India. From saplings to large urban trees, we plant and care for trees and bushes in small and large campaigns. By creating large areas with new trees, we hope to help mitigate CO2 load in the atmosphere.
Running diesel generators of container ships in port are a serious problem. They release fine dust, nitrogen and sulphur oxides as well as CO2 emissions into the environment and atmosphere by the tons. In 2022, we created iMSPO, a mobile socket that allowed container ships to be supplied with shore power easily, quickly and, above all, in a flexible way. If it is also "green", the path to the "zero-emission port" is clear.
What does igus do with electrical appliances after their service life has run out? Until recently, it went straight to disposal, and in large quantities: up to 5 tons of electronic waste were generated annually. That is now a thing of the past. The working group reguse, an association of igus trainees, rescues from electronic waste what can still be used, e.g. laptops, PCs and monitors. It reprocesses the old devices, offers them to igus employees for little money or donates them, for e. g., to schools and associations. Proceeds go towards sustainable projects.
A bike that does not rust. No maintenance, no lubrication. Together with strong partners, we are building the urban bike of tomorrow: robust, durable and made of more than 90% plastic - from the frame to the bearings and the toothed belt. A high proportion of the required raw materials can be covered by recycling plastic waste. Want to find out more?
Produce replacement parts made of wear-resistant iglidur tribopolymers yourself - this possibility is now also available to private individuals. In the context of the project "3D printing replacement parts for everyone", we support repair cafés, open workshops and FabLabs with filament donations. They can obtain up to two rolls of filament per enquiry completely free of charge. More information about the project, which we are initially offering in German-speaking countries, is available on our information page.
The company building in Denmark is heated by heating pumps supplied with heat from the company's own geothermal system. The system has a buffer tank that absorbs the excess heat from the cooling process in summer to heat the building in winter. The electricity used to operate the pumps comes from 100% green electricity and is generated from the energy of wind turbines. In addition, rainwater is collected from the roof of the building, passed through a purification process on the outside steps of the building and channelled to the watercourse along Lysholt Allé.
Our branch in Austria is now using e-cars. As of October 2022, five electric cars are already in the company fleet, and another five have been ordered. A sustainable plus point: three of the staff vehicles run on solar power. This is made possible by photovoltaic systems installed on the roofs of carports and houses. This solution is not only sustainable but also stress-free, because the cars are charged outside your own front door and are guaranteed to be fit for the day in the morning.
Our colleagues in Singapore and Malaysia have implemented several measures to reduce energy consumption in offices and assembly departments:
Extruders for bar stock production require cooling to work flawlessly. For this purpose, cold water runs through the machine. It heats up in the process, and until recently, it was discharged into the sewage system. This has changed with the re-cooling system: after passing through the machine, the water is cooled down in a cooling tower, stored and can be used again to cool the machine. We also use such re-cooling systems for our injection-moulding machines.
29 solar panels have been installed on the roof of the office building of the igus branch in Spain since 2021. The electricity they generate covers one-third of the entire power requirement.
In 2021, we achieved 31.2% less CO2 emissions than in 2020. This figure relates to Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions. The switch to green electricity in mid-2021 and to climate-neutral gas in October 2021 will play a key role here.