The Zero Waste project sets it sights beyond the horizon 

Open up the potential for recycling! As a long-term business partner, Magna Steyr, Graz has supported Saubermacher in developing new potential for resources from waste. The motto is: Always in the best of circles!

The basics are already in existence. In collaboration with Saubermacher more than 80 percent of the waste at Magna Steyr in Graz, including cardboard, packaging and scrap, is put back into the circulation. As a result the waste therefore contributes to further use and is not pointlessly wasted. Just Zero Waste.

Nevertheless, almost 20 percent of the total amount of waste, or approximately 1800 tonnes, are currently (2013) designated as non-recyclable waste. So there is a bit to be achieved before the goal of Zero Waste is reached.

Some 30 different types of waste stream are involved here: Paint sludge, metal hydroxides, solvent containing polishing cloths, solvent-water mixtures, paint contaminated hazardous operating supplies, drilling and grinding emulsion and excavated soil etc. How can the potential for feeding back into circulation also be put to use here? The search for technical possibilities encompasses meticulous work and exploration, and identification and prioritisation.


Zero Waste has already demonstrated starting points resulting in new opportunities for recycling, in the short, medium and long-term, specifically covering no less than 34 individual material fractions. This has called upon the expertise of the technical material flow department just as much as the technical specialists on site. The first order of the day for the project involved material origins, sampling and laboratory analyses. But the success can already be seen: Out of 1800 tonnes, in the short term, 278 tonnes can be redirected into new lines of exploitation. As a result the first substances from the so-called D treatment process (i.e. elimination by dissolving) can already be integrated into an R process (Recovery, Recycling), e.g. oily or greasy operating supplies. These materials will in future be recycled in the dry mechanical sorting and processing plant for hazardous waste following an extension of the flue gas cleaning: The initial tests have been successfully completed.

In the medium term, according to the Zero Waste plan, the recycling rate is set to be increased to more than 90 percent. But how? Through the novel plant (initial still in the pilot phase) sited west of Graz: a physical and biological treatment plant in which hazardous liquid water-based wastes (such as paint sludge and bases) can be treated. It includes recovery of water through the complete separation of pollutants; the residual material is utilised by thermal recovery e.g. in energy production.
Of course, all this is only necessary if pollutants cannot be avoided from the outset.

The individual steps in the plant take advantage of both physical principles, such as gravity, and biological processes. A new treatment process R3 (recycling/reclamation of organic substances) or R5 (recycling/reclamation of other inorganic materials) is also possible through the new plant to the west of Graz. For the first time, the pre-treated water thus produced will not be fed into a municipal wastewater treatment plant. Therefore this now makes it possible to use industrial water in a closed circuit, minimizing unnecessary consumption of drinking water.

One thing is certain, not least for Saubermacher Project Manager, Stefan Siegl: “Zero Waste is not a one-off project, but represents the long-term goal of a partnership. This means working together, both on the part of Saubermacher and on the part of our customers by trying to avoid waste and pollutants in general.”

As a specialist Stefan Siegl perceives the focus of the Zero Waste project, for time being, in the recycling of waste from the manufacturing process and not the manufactured products themselves. However as Siegl confirms: “In my view this leads us precisely to the logical question: How can the products be made recyclable? This could be the future direction; to study the environmental footprint of a product. This can only be achieved if one thinks about recycling at the production stage.”

An example of this is lithium-ion batteries (also at Magna Steyr in Graz). But that´s another story.

Source: Saubermacher AG