BASF Report 2021

Emissions to Air, Waste and Remediation

The graphic depicts the different stations along the value chain. The topics in each chapter address the station shown in light blue. (here: BASF, customers) (graphic)

We want to minimize the impact of our activities on people and the environment by continually reducing emissions to air, preventing waste and protecting the soil. Our plants are operated safely and efficiently. We use resources responsibly and are continually reducing the environmental impact of our plants and processes with our Operational Excellence Program.

At a glance

26,358 metric tons

Air pollutants from BASF operations


Share of our waste recycled or thermally recovered

  • Improvements based on continuous monitoring of emissions to air and waste streams
  • Circular concepts an important part of our activities
  • Systematic management of contaminated sites


The safe and efficient operation of our plants and the responsible management of resources and waste are core components of our Responsible Care Management system. We have defined our global standards for emissions to air, waste and contaminated sites in Group-wide guidelines, the implementation of which is the responsibility of the sites and subsidiaries. The Environmental Protection, Health & Safety unit in the Corporate Center conducts regular audits to monitor compliance with legal requirements and internal guidelines. BASF’s global network of experts regularly shares information, insights and best practices to further reduce our emissions to air, manage waste and responsibly handle contaminated sites.

Continuous documentation and monitoring of emissions to air, waste streams and contaminated sites as well as the implementation of measures for improvement are an integral part of our environmental management. In addition to greenhouse gases, we also measure and analyze emissions of air pollutants to avoid potentially harmful substances as best possible.

Our waste management is based on the systematic tracking of material flows and follows a clear hierarchy: We aim to avoid waste as far as possible, for example, by continuously optimizing our processes or developing new production methods. BASF’s Verbund structure with its networked plants and value chains is key here. We use it to efficiently manage our material flows. The by-products of one plant serve as feedstock for other plants and processes elsewhere in the BASF Verbund, avoiding waste and enabling us to use raw materials as efficiently as possible.

If these cannot be used within BASF’s Verbund structures, we assess whether they can be recycled or thermally recovered. Non-recyclable materials are disposed of safely, appropriately and in an environmentally responsible manner. If we use external waste disposal companies, we conduct regular audits to ensure that waste is disposed of properly. In this way, we also contribute to preventive soil protection and keep today’s waste from becoming tomorrow’s contamination. If soil and groundwater contamination occurs at active or former sites, appropriate remediation measures are reviewed and implemented.

In addition to optimizing our own processes, we are committed to reducing the impact on air and soil and minimizing our disposal volumes and material consumption along our value chains. We expect our suppliers to comply with internationally recognized environmental standards. This is assessed as part of our sustainable supply chain management. We support our suppliers in developing and implementing measures for improvement, for example in waste management. We offer our customers a wide range of products that can reduce air pollutants or waste – from industrial process catalysts, fuel additives and catalysts for the automotive sector to additives and track-and-trace technologies to extend the useful life of plastics or improve mechanical recycling of plastic waste.

We are increasingly aligning our actions with the circular economy principle. For example, we are increasingly using recycled and waste-based raw materials in our production, recycling operating supplies, and expanding our capacities for recovering precious metals from spent automotive and industrial catalysts. We are also developing product-specific recycling technologies, often together with partners along our value chains. For instance, we are driving forward the chemical recycling of mixed plastic waste and disposed foam mattresses and are working on new concepts for recycling battery materials. We are also involved in cross-industry networks and initiatives to avoid waste and strengthen the circular economy. These include the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (see box below) and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Emissions to air

Total emissions of air pollutants from our production plants amounted to 26,358 metric tons in 2021 (2020: 24,496 metric tonsª). Emissions of ozone-depleting substances as defined by the Montreal Protocol totaled 17 metric tons in 2021 (2020: 14 metric tons). We significantly reduced these emissions compared with 2002 (229 metric tons) by successively shifting to alternative coolants. Emissions of heavy metals1 in 2021 amounted to 2 metric tons (2020: 2 metric tonsª).

Emissions to air (Metric tons)

Air pollutants from BASF operations



CO (carbon monoxide)



NOX (total nitrogen oxides)



(nonmethane volatile organic compounds)



SOX (total sulfur oxides)






NH3 (ammonia) and other inorganic substances







The comparative figure for 2020 has been adjusted to reflect updated data.

We want to further reduce our emissions with various measures. For instance, we use catalysts to reduce nitrogen oxides or feed waste gases back into the production process. One example is the nitrous oxide generated in the production of adipic acid at the Ludwigshafen site in Germany: 99% of this by-product is already decomposed or used in the BASF Verbund. In the future, it will even be 99.9%. This will be made possible by an automation project implemented in 2021 to optimally control processes based on important plant parameters and using predictive model calculations. The aim is to avoid around 550 metric tons of nitrous oxide emissions annually, corresponding to around 145,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalents.


BASF generated 2.47 million metric tons of waste in 2021 (2020: 2.21 million metric tons). Of this, 53.0% was disposed of. Hazardous waste accounted for 73.9% of the total disposed waste (2020: 69.6%). Based on the concept of the circular economy, we are continuously examining options for material or thermal recycling for all waste (see “Strategy”). In this way, we were able to find new uses for 47.0% of our waste in 2021. We continuously identify and evaluate the safest and most environmentally sound disposal routes for non-recyclable waste. In 2021, most of our hazardous waste was incinerated (77.7%), where possible with energy recovery. 7.6% of hazardous waste was disposed of in landfill. This is mainly contaminated construction waste that cannot be reused or recycled due to legal requirements.

Waste generation in the BASF Group (Million metric tons)


Hazardous wastea

Nonhazardous wastea











Thermally recovered





Waste recovered





Through incineration (without energy recovery)





In surface landfills










Waste disposed of





Total waste generation






Waste is classified as hazardous or nonhazardous waste according to local regulations.


Physical/chemical and biological treatment, underground disposal

Contaminated sites

We have global standards for managing contaminated sites. A worldwide network of experts ensures these are implemented. We develop remediation solutions that balance nature conservation, climate protection concerns, costs and social responsibility. This means making differentiated decisions on a case-by-case basis, founded on the legal framework and current technological standards. Contaminated sites are documented in a database. Ongoing remediation work around the world continued on schedule in 2021 and planning was concluded for future remediation projects.

For more information on provisions for environmental protection, see the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements:

Good to know

Alliance to End Plastic Waste

In 2019, we co-founded the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) with other companies along the value chain – from plastics producers and consumer goods manufacturers to waste disposal companies. The AEPW now has around 65 members, who together aim to develop solutions that stop plastic waste from entering the environment, especially the ocean. There are four main focus areas: developing infrastructure for waste collection, promoting innovative recycling methods, education and engagement of various stakeholders, and cleanup of areas heavily impacted by plastic waste. The initiative aims to invest up to $1.5 billion by 2023. For instance, BASF supports the AEPW’s goal of establishing a circular economy for plastics with its ChemCycling™ project.

1 Heavy metals are included in the figure for dust (see the table “Emissions to air”).

CO2 equivalents
CO2 equivalents are units for measuring the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the greenhouse effect. A factor known as the global warming potential (GWP) shows the impact of the individual gases compared with CO2 as the reference value.
Responsible Care®
Registered trademark of the European Chemical Industry Council
Value chain
A value chain describes the successive steps in a production process: from raw materials through various intermediate steps, such as transportation and production, to the finished product.
In the BASF Verbund, plants are intelligently connected. In this system, chemical processes consume less energy, produce higher product yields and conserve resources. The by-products of one plant serve as feedstock elsewhere, creating efficient value chains – from basic chemicals to high value-added solutions such as coatings or crop protection products. Our Verbund concept – realized in production, technologies, the market and digitalization – enables innovative solutions for a sustainable future.

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