Per year, Zurich energy Utility company (ewz) accrues approximately 1,500 tons of industrial waste, including items such as large 60-year-old electric wires containing copper, energy transformers or even old street lamps. Since 2018, ewz pioneers the single-stream-recycling concept and outsources waste management to one firm, namely KAMU AG, which takes care of on-demand waste pick-up, triage, and professional dismantling of items to full purity of materials.
From there, materials move to 1) recycling / reselling, 2) waste incineration, and 3) landfill. Regarding recycling, for instance, copper from electric wires is sold to smelting plants and eventually becomes part of a new product.
Within a day after waste collection, KAMU AG presents ewz with a detailed chart and analysis of the types and percentages of waste picked up within that load. Based on this full transparency and data accuracy, ewz can now launch further optimisations to reduce types of waste and increase the recycling degree.
- In 2018, ewz recycled 65% of its industrial waste. Because purity of recyclables such as metals is very high, the materials achieve good price on the market and bring in more money than what are costs for outsourcing waste management to KAMU AG. In short, ewz makes money with the process.
- This project ensures that 100% of recyclable materials get recycled, which was previously not the case as items were not always dismantled into such material purity.
- Even after costs, ewz generates financial profits from this process – demonstrating how sustainable action can be profitable and generate entrepreneurial value even in the short-term.
- ewz now has full data transparency on its waste, allowing for targeted efforts to reduce them further and increase its recycling degree.
- Time and resources on the side of ewz for waste collection and sorting are reduced drastically.
- Working with a single waste management company and introducing on-demand waste pick-up, KAMU AG can avoid unnecessary pick-up runs. It can also optimise transport routes, reducing CO2 and saving costs.
- Regulatory challenges: By law, ewz is required to process office waste (non-industrial) waste with the official waste management company of the city of Zurich. Hence, we still have two separate waste management processes.
- Limited control & protection of long-term investments: ewz is an infrastructure provider. The industrial waste we process now is largely coming from infrastructure that ewz invested over 60 years ago or more. Thus, we have limited control over this waste and its amounts. This highlights the importance of sourcing correct materials right now and maintaining accurate material documentation, because what ewz constructs now will be either waste or a resource in 60+ years. When investing with such a long-term focus, potential policy changes or future legal requirements pose a risk. Thus, one challenge for ewz is how to protect its long-term financial investment.