Every year, countries use 1.7 times the Earth’s natural resources, and that’s an unsustainable natural resource debt, Harsco Corp. points out in its most recent ESG report.
The company, an environmental solutions company which treats, recycles and repurposes industrial waste, states that only 8% of extracted resources were recycled or reused in 2020.
That’s a debt that must be reduced says Harsco’s CEO Nick Grasberger. And his company is doing something about it.
“The key to reducing this debt is to recycle and repurpose key raw materials,” Grasberger says. “We have been working closely with companies, across all industries, as they move toward a zero-emission standard.”
This shift toward a more circular economy is being championed by many stakeholders including investors, employees and customers. The World Economy forum points out that by 2030 the global population is predicted to hit 9 billion. “Our future depends on reusing what we have in a sustainable way,” the forum said in a statement. “Fortunately one resource that is unlimited is innovation, and many companies are developing ingenious ways to reduce, reuse and recycle.”
And to help companies do exactly that, Harsco is moving toward becoming a single thesis environmental solutions provider which is a natural evolution for the company that was founded in 1850. Based in Camp Hill, Penn., the 11,000-employee company operates in more than 30 countries.
To align its business for the future, the company sold three of its businesses, and it acquired Clean Earth, a specialty waste processing company and Stericycle’s Environmental Solutions business, which enabled Harsco to create a national hazardous waste management platform.
“We are working with blue-chip companies to help find zero waste types of solutions,” says Grasberger. “No one wants to contribute to landfills or see waste incinerated.”
There is a lot of activity around finding innovative environmental solutions, says Grasberger and his company is working with companies to repurpose waste to be used for such uses as paving roads, making roofing shingles, become fertilizer or adding to cement.
While the company is devising solutions internally it is also working with universities that are developing emerging technologies that can become commercialized.
In the past few years, the company has invested in different technologies. Last year they invested in Carbicrete, a Canadian technology company developing cement-free, carbon-negative concrete products made with steel slag for the construction industry. Harsco’s investment will allow for the development of innovative technology through a demonstration program with support from a commercial concrete block manufacturer as part of a development consortium.
Also last year the company served as a pilot customer for Volvo Construction Equipment’s new autonomous battery-electric hauler. Based on the HX2 concept model, a fleet of four updated machines will begin the year-long pilot program in March 2020 at a HE site in Sweden, where it will be tested in a repetitive transport application. The machine is fully automated and uses shared and proven technologies from the Volvo group like batteries and driveline systems.
In 2017 the company’s Protran Technology unit, part of the Harsco Rail division, announced placed install enhanced safety systems that alert railway track workers on the ground before trains enter their work zones Washington, D.C. and Sacramento, Calif. The system incorporates three-way communication among track workers, train operators and dispatchers in the central office.
And back in 2016 the company’s Protran Technology unit, part of its rail division, has formed a marketing alliance with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) to introduce unmanned vehicle technology to traditional railway safety and security operations. The Instrumented Rail Inspection System (IRiS), security inspection, and ’first response‘ allow work to be done with robots. Equipped with near-infrared video and photographic capability, the IRiS can be operated remotely from a portable base station that provides a single interface for controlling the vehicle and reviewing telemetry.
Harsco will continue to look for new technologies says Grasberger. Innovation in solving pressing issues is the ultimate goal of the company. “Now, more than ever, we are confident that our strategic decision to focus on the urgent societal needs of providing environmental solutions for industrial and specialty waste streams is in the best interest of our people, our planet and our shareholders,” says Grasberger.