This year’s World Environment Day challenges us to think about our relationship with the natural world, and how intimately we depend on it. So there’s no better time to talk about sustainability — a subject close to my heart.
Working towards an economic model that reduces waste, emissions and water consumption isn’t just a box we tick at Arçelik — it’s at the center of everything we do. That means staying ahead of the curve when it comes to discovering innovations.
My vision and that of Arçelik’s employees is far bigger than simply creating improvements in one factory or another. For us, the vision of cultivating sustainability carries across all brands and industries.
At Arçelik, we won’t develop a new business plan or make a new investment without focusing on our goal for a more sustainable model — how can we reduce waste, emission and water consumption.
Keeping an eye on developing technology is the best way for us — and everyone — to stay ahead of the curve. So here are a few initiatives we’re already participating in, as well as the biggest advances I see for the future.
Closing the loop
Our strategies are formed to correspond to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and we meet multiple environmental ISO accreditations with the waste, energy and water management systems we have already deployed.
Recycling is crucial to reducing unnecessary waste, and our industry-leading plants are designed with this in mind. We’re working towards the ambitious target of becoming a net-zero-emissions company by 2025 by implementing renewable energy and boosting energy efficiency across all of production and distribution facilities.
One of the initiatives I’m most proud of is our closed-loop water cycle approach, which allows us to recover used water and put it to new use in our plants. Focusing on these projects, we were able to save around 1 million cubic liters of water in the last 5 years.
The benefits we all enjoy from plastic packaging and products are huge, but there are hefty consequences to consider when it comes to those tricky-to-recycle items.
With this in mind, I’m really excited about a recent study that revealed mealworms are able to live on a diet of Styrofoam and other forms of polystyrene. Another study also highlighted that wax worms, which are commercially bred for fishing bait, can biodegrade the plastic used in shopping bags at very high speeds.
Although it is imperative that we all learn to reduce the volume of waste we produce, the possibility that insect larvae could help to digest plastic waste signals a potentially interesting breakthrough.
Cleaning up our oceans
As a keen sailor, I have seen the damaging effects of waste on our oceans. Thankfully, there are people developing extraordinary ways to protect this precious natural resource. The Ocean Cleanup is an organization working to tackle the five trillion pieces of plastic that currently clutter our oceans, including an ingenious floating system that can capture and contain plastic waste far more efficiently than any traditional nets or vessels.
With companies like Adidas creating trainers made from recycled ocean plastic and P&G announcing a limited run of the world’s first recyclable shampoo bottle made from beach plastic, we are starting to get glimpses of the kind of circular economies that will significantly reduce waste. It’s an example we are trying to set for our industry as well as others, manufacturing washing machines and refrigerators that are 99% recyclable.
Solar takes the spotlight
I was really excited to read that renewable energy is on the rise, providing 55 percent of all new electrical capacity last year. Solar, in particular, has been making some big headlines, with China reporting an astounding 80 percent increase in solar power output in the space of three months. This achievement was made possible by investments like the recently opened floating, 40-megawatt photovoltaic facility — the largest on earth.
And now there’s news that four American professors have been able to boost solar efficiency by a whopping 300 percent by adding magnesium atoms to solar cells. A development like this could have a revolutionary effect on the adoption of solar power all over the world.
To create a more sustainable future — reduce waste, emissions and water consumption — we must look to the amazing advances happening across the world. It’s our responsibility to share our innovations and be receptive to scientific breakthroughs across all industries. That way we can find the best way forward, no matter what corner it comes from.