Waste and water management

How we’re reducing waste and increasing circularity

We’re on a journey towards achieving 100% circular use of materials in our own operations by 2030. To get there, we’re focusing on reducing the amount of waste and increasing the circular use of materials.


Waste management

At AkzoNobel, one of our key ambitions is to move to 100% circular use of materials for our obsolete material and waste streams. We’re continuously challenging ourselves to identify new outlets for materials that would otherwise be disposed of as waste, improve on our recycling, and reduce our waste quantities (with a specific focus on waste to landfill). The infographic below shows the different waste streams present in our operations. 


Material flow

in kilotons

*The amount of materials reused by AkzoNobel and third parties (reusable waste and by-products) divided by the total waste and by-products, provides the percentage of circular use of materials.

Total waste

in kilotons

Waste means any substance or object arising from our routine operations which we discard or intend to discard. 

Over the last few years, we have managed to reduce our relative and absolute waste generation. While the disposal of slow-moving obsolete stock and legacy waste remains a continuous challenge, numerous waste reduction projects help to achieve the observed reduction. We’re driving various global programs, such as wash water recycling, solvent recovery units, and finding ways to avoid sending waste to landfill avoidance to further reduce our waste.

To learn about the latest updates on this topic, and a more detailed breakdown of numbers, please refer to the our annual report


Water management

Water flow

in milion m3 (total for AkzoNobel)

*Factory process water other than water that ends up in the product, and water used for drinking, sanitation and irrigation

At AkzoNobel, the bulk of our water use is for cooling (78% in 2022). This occurs at only a handful of our production locations in areas with a low water availability risk (assessed through the Aqueduct tool). Water is also used as a raw material in paints and for cleaning (see below).

We concentrate our water consumption reduction efforts on our water- intensive sites – which we define as a site that uses more than 15,000m3 per year, excluding cooling water. These sites are expected to meet our target of less than 250 liters of relative freshwater consumption per ton of product. As per our internal, best-in-class benchmark analysis, a site that consumes less than 250 liters per ton of product produced is considered to have “water reuse” measures in place. Currently, 34% of our sites (42) meet the definition of a water-intensive site, representing 76% of our total freshwater consumption. In 2022, 14 out of the 42 water-intensive sites reached the target.

For 2023, we’ll further integrate our approach to water management at water-intensive sites with our Climate Risk Management approach. For physical risks related to climate change and our exposure to water stressed areas, refer to Climate change adaptation and risk management.

Total fresh water use

in milion m3 

Total fresh water use in the sum of the intake of groundwater, surface water and potable water.

Taking solvent recovery to the next level

Our Industrial Coatings sites are focused on reusing and reprocessing solvents to avoid generating waste. We currently operate 19 solvent recovery units across the EMEA region, North America and Asia.

Over the past three years, we’ve installed a total of 14 solvent recovery units in Asia. In 2022, an efficiency improvement program increased the efficiency of these installations from 70% to 90%.

In 2022, our site in Hilden, Germany (pictured at the right) also installed a solvent recovery unit. The cleaning solvents used at the site can now be distilled internally. As a result, waste at the site for the year was reduced by more than 50%, representing 1,800 tons.

Climate change adaptation and risk management

As recommended by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), we continue to monitor our risks and opportunities related to climate change. As a company, we’re exposed to physical risks – such as those associated with water scarcity, flooding and weather events – and transitional risks, such as changes in technology, market dynamics and regulation.


Carbon Pricing

For the last seven years, we’ve implemented an internal carbon price for these investment decisions, anticipating the impact of any future carbon pricing. Annually, we quantify the potential transitional risk impact of any global carbon taxation by multiplying our carbon footprint (Scopes 1 and 2) with the internal carbon price. To analyze different potential scenarios, we calculate the impact using a carbon price ranging from €50 to €150 (per ton), the latter being the suggested UN price on carbon. That range results in an impact well below 1% of 2022 revenues.

We continued to assess our suppliers in 2022 and take steps to better understand and manage risks around the globe from a supply perspective.


Physical risks: Natural catastrophes

As climate change will most likely increase the frequency of natural hazards, during 2022, we’ve further analyzed the natural hazards our operations are exposed to.

As part of our risk and insurance process, we collect information about our sites by conducting risk engineering site surveys. Annually, around 20% of sites are assessed following a materiality-based approach.


Water risk:

When it comes to water and the associated availability risk, we used the Aqueduct water risk atlas developed by the World Resources Institute to assess the level of risk at our production locations – an exercise run every three years (see Report 2021). Based on this assessment and benchmarking with other industries, materiality was rated as low (compared to Energy and Waste).

In numbers, around 13% (17) of our sites are in areas rated “extremely high” for overall water risk (with standard weighting factors). These sites are accounting for 9% (175,000 m³) of our freshwater consumption. Future risks, however, for 2030 show that around 30 (25%) of our locations are in areas rated “extremely high”, accounting for 25% of our actual freshwater use. 

All locations confirmed as “extremely high” in any of these assessments will develop a risk mitigation plan.

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