Birsterminal AG: A green energy source of over 16,000 square meters and the world's first electric-powered forklift of this kind
The mission statement of the company claims: "We develop and promote sustainability in our service products and their execution. We work proactively with local and regional stakeholders". What does this mean concretely?
By their very nature, Rhine vessels are more ecological than other means of transport. We advise our customers and promote fluvial transport on the Rhine. In close collaboration with local and regional interest groups, we try, as much as possible, to favor river transport to Birsfelden instead of using trucks. This prevents thousands of truck crossings of the city.
Together with the Port of Switzerland, we are also constantly looking for sustainable solutions that reduce traffic through the city and improve the accessibility of the South Port (Südport) of Basel.
Regarding our services, we are committed to powering all equipment and handling devices with the solar energy we generate ourselves instead of diesel. Currently, 90% of the Birsterminal equipment is powered by electric engines. We are now upgrading our fleet with a 12-ton lift truck. The world's first Hyster J12XD6 with 350V high voltage technology and a battery capacity of 139 KWh.
What are the advantages of electric-powered machines?
The machines cost significantly more to purchase, and their installation is especially expensive. But on the other hand, maintenance costs are lower. There is no need for filter changes, less service, electric engines just run. However, the most important argument is the work in the warehouse. With electric engines, there are no exhaust fumes in the warehouse and this benefits the health of our employees, which is our priority.
Do you currently have any new projects related to sustainability?
In addition to the electric lift truck, we plan to build new warehouses. When building new, modern handling and logistics halls, the issue of sustainability is always important. We already have a photovoltaic system of over 16,000 square meters on our roofs, this system covers our entire energy needs and the needs of hundreds of other households.
When was this installation built and why?
The plant was fully commissioned in 2015. The building project with very large roof areas was already predestined for the installation of a photovoltaic solar station for the use of natural energy.
What was the motivation behind this project?
In addition to the added value of self-sufficiency, we save up to 2,400 tons of CO2 emissions per year. The important investment is also profitable thanks to the sale of the surplus electricity production with a very long-term planning.
Please give a few figures, how much energy does the plant generate?
The plant generates 3,047,000 watts or 3,047 kilowatts per year, which roughly equals the annual supply for 1,500 households.
Another important topic is the recycling of building materials: can you tell us a little more about it? How long have you been providing this service and how important is it for the environment? And more generally, what is the future of this type of recycling?
The idea that "everything goes to the landfill", is no longer an option. The amount of construction waste generated in Switzerland each year is estimated at around 14 million tons. This is a huge potential of reusable building materials. More than half of them can be recycled. These materials are particularly sought after abroad. But the main issue here is the careful use of raw materials. At Birsterminal AG, the material is processed and either transported abroad as a new product or reused in the cycle for domestic concrete production. In Switzerland, we always have more excavated and demolition materials than we can recycle. When it comes to recycling, we are not talking about highly contaminated products. These continue to be shipped to thermal processing plants abroad. Our conditions: recycling or further processing abroad must be carried out in accordance with Swiss standards and laws and must be certified. The transport is always environmentally friendlier via ship or rail.
What plans does Birsterminal AG have in store in terms of “sustainability"?
Our aim is to achieve greater efficiency, less intermediate transport and more shipping and rail transport for lower emissions through constant dialog with our customers.
How do you see the green future in the logistics industry? Are we in for big changes?
There will not be a big change from one day to the next. Currently, there are also more and more support programs for environmental projects throughout the EU. We are developing further projects in the field of "sustainability" in cooperation with the management of the Port of Switzerland, which attaches great importance to the environment. However, since the cost pressure is very high, I think that we, in the logistics industry, must be patient and do a lot of educational work to achieve success. Such projects are complex and usually stretch out over a long period of time. We want improvement and continue to work on our projects. But the pressure regarding CO2 reduction must be increased if we want to speed up implementation and see results.
Who are your strongest partners in terms of environmental strategy?
In terms of environmental strategy, all our contacts are our partners, not only the big organizations like the Port of Switzerland, the city, or the canton. We can advise our customers or suppliers and convince them to choose more environmentally friendly means of transport, thereby helping to reduce the burden on the environment. We are in constant dialog with our customers and thus continue our environmental policy in a straightforward and consistent manner.