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Vestas to Produce Zero-Waste Wind Turbines by 2040

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Vestas is expanding its sustainability focus to address waste generated in the value chain. The company states it is excited to announce its intention to produce zero-waste wind turbines by 2040, “further underlining its commitment to make sustainability part of everything we do.
Vestas to Produce Zero-Waste Wind Turbines by 2040
Courtesy of Vestas Wind Systems A/S

Vestas is the first turbine manufacturer to commit to zero-waste wind turbines, meaning running a value chain that generates no waste materials. This will be achieved by developing and implementing a new waste-management strategy, introducing a circular economy approach in the different phases of the value chain: design, production, service and end-of-life. The strategy will be presented within the next two years.

“Establishing such an ambitious goal for waste reduction is paramount to ensuring a better world for future generations,” said Executive Vice President of Vestas Power Solutions, Anders Vedel. “Leading the wind industry is not enough to combat the global challenges we face today. If we are to spearhead the energy transition, we must be an example for doing so in the most sustainable way, and this involves making sustainability part of everything we do.”

Industrial waste is a growing threat to environmental ecosystems and to global health. An estimated 11.2 billion tons of solid waste is collected every year, posing a serious risk to resource depletion, air pollution and water and soil contamination. Furthermore, solid waste is estimated to contribute to 5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions1. Waste generated from turbine blades alone is estimated to be around 43 million tons accumulated by 20502. With the global wind energy market set to grow by an average of 3 percent per year in the coming decade, Vestas is mitigating its environmental impact as the market leader by committing to eliminate waste across its value chain3.Today, Vestas wind turbines are on average 85 percent recyclable, however wind turbine blades are currently comprised of non-recyclable composite materials.

Vestas will consider all aspects of the turbine lifecycle, aimed at improving the recyclability rate of blades and nacelles. As a first step, Vestas will be focusing on improving the recyclability of all wind turbine blades. Incremental targets will be introduced to increase the recyclability rate of blades from 44 percent today, to 50 percent by 2025, and to 55 percent by 2030. Several initiatives designed to address the handling of existing blades after decommissioning will be set in motion. These will cover new recycling technologies that are optimal for composite waste, such as glass fiber recycling and plastic parts recovery. Vestas will also be implementing a new process around blade decommissioning, providing support to customers on how to decrease the amount of waste material being sent to landfill.

[1] Source: United Nations Environment Program https://www.unenvironment.org/explore-topics/resource-efficiency/what-we-do/cities/solid-waste-management

[2] Source: University of Cambridge https://www.researchgate.net/publication/313800207_Wind_turbine_blade_waste_in_2050 

[3] Source: GWEC: https://gwec.net/global-wind-report-2018/ 

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