Circularity: Product Life Cycle & Materials

Challenging industry standards with circular systems and solutions

In 2021 we launched the Trane Technologies Circularity Council, driving our bold 2030 commitments forward.

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In the face of climate change, Trane Technologies is dedicated to decarbonizing the product life cycle – from design and manufacturing through to retirement – of the solutions we develop to help customers decarbonize their own operations. Circular strategies, such as using recycled materials, repair and reuse, and remanufacturing and recycling at the end of a product’s useful life, all play a meaningful role in our decarbonization efforts. Not only do we pursue circularity in our own operations, but we also participate in the circular economy within our communities through partnerships and coalitions. Through bold leadership, we believe we can change our industry, and in doing so, change the world. 

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To manage our commitment to circularity, we launched the Trane Technologies Circularity Council in 2021, which meets monthly to drive progress on our 2030 commitment to design systems for circularity. This year, internal and external subject matter experts on the Council built a strong framework from which to support work streams and began expansion and improvement projects dealing with material selection, product design, refrigerant reclaim, and remanufacturing. We also joined REMADE, a coalition focused on advancing the circular economy and reducing embodied energy and emissions of U.S. manufacturing.

Key Initiative

Since 2020, many Trane Technologies manufacturing sites have participated in a circular economy initiative run by the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development. The initiative facilitates materials marketplaces using industrial ecology where businesses can exchange waste streams for reuse as inputs into industrial activities. This work reduces our waste-to-landfill and contributes to six of the UN SDGs:

  • SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth  

  • SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure 

  • SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities  

  • SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production 

  • SDG 13: Climate Action 

  • SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals

Trane Technologies also works to eliminate packaging waste throughout our products’ life cycles through circular packaging models. We use returnable packaging programs at 14 North American manufacturing sites to reduce more than 1,360 metric tons of packaging in 2021. Since 2019, an additional 30+ suppliers have partnered with Trane Technologies to convert from expendable to returnable packaging solutions. We also partner with numerous Thermo King North America customers to deliver our products in returnable packaging solutions. Read more about our packaging strategy.

Design and Manufacturing

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The Corporate Engineering Excellence team oversees and continually improves the product development process (PDP), which guides the design, development, and launch of our products. This team integrates evolving customer needs, new codes and regulations, and life cycle considerations into product development. In 2021, the PDP generated or improved more than 181 new product development projects. 

Early in the PDP, a Design for Sustainability module formalizes the consideration of issues such as raw material selection, natural resource consumption, and use-phase and end-of-life product impacts. We engage stakeholders during this module to identify new ways to create value and determine which sustainability attributes customers value most. We also address market standards and regulations for topics such as energy efficiency and other sustainability requirements.

Raw material inputs play an important role in determining a product’s sustainability and circularity. Our products contain components from a variety of materials including steel, cast iron, aluminum, copper, and plastic resin. We seek to source our materials responsibly by choosing metals mined and manufactured with a lower carbon footprint and continually increase the recycled content we purchase. In 2021, of the key materials mentioned above, we sourced approximately 44% recycled input material. We use due diligence when sourcing minerals necessary to the functionality or production of our products. Read more about our approach to procurement and conflict minerals.  

The manufacturing process requires the consumption and use of natural resources, which are finite on our planet. We use a proprietary tool designed to consider the impact of design choices on natural resources, conduct life cycle analyses on key products, and continuously improve our manufacturing process. For example, the manufacturing process for the Thermo King Advancer trailer, launched in 2020, uses 60% less energy than previous trailer units.

Product Use

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Once our products are in customer hands, we offer multiple services to ensure they run as efficiently as possible and extend their already long lives. Our intelligent predictive services detect small problems before they become big issues, and our maintenance and repair services extend system lifetimes and reduce wear that drives up energy costs. We also provide comprehensive rental services for short- or long-term solutions, such as for planned maintenance or contingency planning. 

As technologies and regulations change, our customers stay on the cutting edge of efficiency and sustainability with building optimization tools that support customers in integrating, monitoring, and managing their building systems remotely. When it is time for an upgrade, we provide an assessment service to determine whether replacing an existing system or retrofitting will offer better return on investment and sustainability benefits. For equipment not quite ready for replacement, an upgrade or retrofit can replace critical components to regain efficiencies and extend equipment life.

We also support our customers with proper refrigerant management and documentation in accordance with regulations, especially during a transition to low-GWP refrigerants. In partnership with EPA-certified reclaimers across the U.S. and our Trane Supply locations, we encourage the collection of used refrigerants to reduce high-GWP HFC emissions.

Refrigerant Reclamation

Refrigerant Reclamation:

We improved our reclamation program by expanding take-back operations to all Trane Supply stores throughout the continental U.S. and launched “Tech Rewards,” a rewards program to further incentivize the sustainable return of refrigerants at the end of their lives. This service is available to the whole community, as we accept refrigerants from any brand, not just our own. This program delivers an energy performance improvement for the entire refrigerant manufacturing segment due to the lower energy requirements for refreshing used refrigerant compared to manufacturing new refrigerant. The avoided emissions from recovered refrigerant collected at Trane Supply locations in 2021 equates to 197,056 metric tons of CO2e, which is a 10% increase from 2020.

Product Retirement

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Though our products’ lives are long, eventually they must be retired. At Trane Technologies, we reclaim and refurbish or recycle our products to reduce waste and our manufacturing impact on natural resources. All business units provide specific end-of-life product manuals to customers with responsible disposal instructions, and many run materials take-back programs. Our remanufacturing operation in Charlotte, North Carolina, takes back old compressors and motors and gives them a new life by disassembling them, repairing or replacing necessary parts, and reassembling the product to original specifications.