SBS – When hazardous waste becomes a resource


The brake pads on a motorcycle can mean the difference between life and death. Danish SBS is one of the leading European producers of brake pads for motorcycles. Its production generates waste, which would previously have been sent to landfills. In partnership with Stena Recycling, they have succeeded in shifting approximately 150 metric tons of dust from landfills to recycling since 2013. This has led to a greener profile and savings in the region of DKK 180,000.

“We and our customers have a greater focus on safety these days,” says Torben Madsen, COO at SBS. “You could say that developing the right friction material for brake pads involves a bit of black magic. It’s all about producing a material that ensures the requisite friction between the brake pad and brake disc, that tolerates high temperatures without undue wear and that can be used under many different conditions. This isn’t something you put together just like that.” 



When SBS prepares the material for the pads, it is processed and ground to comply with the product’s quality specifications. This produces dust containing metals and bonding materials, which are collected via an effective extraction system with the dust being classified as hazardous waste. 

“Dust cannot be sorted with any precision,” says Torben Madsen. “And because of this, it was just driven away to the nearest landfill. This was expensive and not in line with the environmental profile we are striving to achieve. When we contacted Stena Recycling, they carried out studies of the dust, and we were positively surprised when we got the results.”

 “Based on discussions with SBS about their waste products, we saw that there was potential for recycling their dust products,” says Karina Larsen, project manager for hazardous waste at Stena Recycling. “We took samples of the dust from their production and analyzed it based on various parameters, with special focus on the metal content. The analyses showed that there was high copper and nickel content – so high that it was worth recycling the material from both an financial and environmental point of view. Our focus is on helping our customers recycle more of their waste, and in so doing, helping them in moving their waste higher up the waste hierarchy.”  



SBS was previously sending 40 metric tons of dust each year to landfills. This cost DKK 1.2 per kilo. Today, 30 metric tons are recycled each year, with positive financial benefits for SBS. The hazardous waste became an asset for SBS, both financially and environmentally. 

Torben Madsen is also very satisfied with this solution: “We get assurance that the material is being properly handled and also that the hazardous waste is being recycled, consequently becoming a resource. This is reassuring, not just for the company, but even for the community.” 



Stena Recycling handles approximately 200 metric tons of waste for SBS each year – hazardous waste, cardboard, plastics and iron. Before 2003, SBS worked with various other waste management companies, with each collecting a different category of waste.

“It was very time-consuming, monitoring what each of the companies was doing,” Torben Madsen. “So we are saving a lot of time and administration by having a total solution from Stena. At the same time, we have access to statistics from Stena. This gives us a good overview and we can constantly check that everything is going in the right direction. With Stena’s knowledge and expertise, we have received a lot of specific guidance regarding the management and recycling of waste. This makes our everyday operations much easier.” 



When the partnership between SBS and Stena began, three specialists from Stena assessed and analyzed the individual waste areas. Michael Lykke from Stena is currently responsible for overall and daily contact with SBS. Michael is deeply involved in the daily routines at SBS. He explains: “One day, I was wondering about why SBS purchased so many new blue tubs. When it turned out that they were to be used for waste, I suggested that they buy some used tubs from us instead. This is a small but good example of how our partnership works in everyday operations.”



SBS measures operations in six areas – and safety is the first and most important of these

“The environment and safety have top priority, says Torben Madsen. “This entails that waste management and other environmental initiatives are determined by an internal agenda.”

Torben Madsen also feels that SBS has been challenged in a positive manner through the partnership with Stena: “We have had to improve our internal waste management and safety processes on an ongoing basis. This has resulted in a request for Stena to provide a number of courses in optimization of waste management and optimization of safety – a set of values that both parties share and take extremely seriously.” 



“Everything we do must of course, be reflected on the bottom line”, says Torben Madsen. “We are entering into this process with Stena Recycling for several reasons. We save time, improve our image and live up to our objectives regarding a high level of safety and a good work environment. Stena has been good for this process. It has been simple, we receive regular reports of how things are going, and we have received some really good advice.”

Torben Madsen’s experience of simplicity, the reports and good advice fits in well with Stena’s values: Simple, Reliable and Developing. Karina Larsen from Stena expands on this: “We make things easy for the customers. We make complicated solutions simple and we deal with all the legislative aspects. We are reliable because we ensure that those receiving and processing the waste are fully approved. Finally, we are developing because we are always searching for better solutions. We are constantly looking to see if there is waste that can be recycled when new processing techniques are being developed.”



In SBS’ product development, we keep a lookout for requirements that can be expected in the future. Environmental requirements for brake pads are becoming more stringent.  There are presently no requirements regarding the environmental impact of brake pads.  

“The fact is that our products are utilized over a very large geographical area,” says Torben Madsen. “The quantities are obviously very small, but we accept the responsibility and are among the first to be working on phasing out the use of environmentally hazardous substances in brake linings. Besides benefiting the environment, it will optimize production, strengthen our environmental image. At the same time, we will continue to improve our waste sorting so that we can recycle even more. Stena will without a doubt, be an important part of this process.” 

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