DEVELOPMENT: SAB's Go-Slow On Water Plan
Recent Western Cape Business News
THE South African Breweries has set itself a target to reduce water consumption by at least 10% in the coming few years. In so doing, it aims to support the SABMiller plc objective of reducing water consumption across the group by 25%.
SABMiller, one of the world’s leading brewers, recently announced a major new commitment to reduce water consumption across its global operations.
The group has set itself the target of reducing its average water use per litre of beer by 25% by 2015. This initiative will save around 20 billion litres of water globally every year by 2015 - enough to fill eight thousand Olympic-sized swimming pools.
In the Cape, some water reduction measures include:
• Backwash water used at the Appletiser plant. Waste water from the plant’s manufacturing process is carefully cleaned and filtered before before being reused to irrigate the neighbouring apple orchards or returned to the nearby river.
• In an initial pilot phase, two of SAB Ltd’s breweries – Newlands in Cape Town, and Ibhayi in Port Elizabeth – have been linked to a scheme to reduce its operational water consumption, and then off-sets the residual by investing in projects that clear alien invasive vegetation, which in turn releases equivalent volumes of water back into natural aquatic ecosystems.
• Because agriculture is heavily dependent on water to produce crops for the beverage industry, finding water savings in agriculture is another imperative for SAB, and the company is examining its water footprint along its value chain to unlock any reduction opportunities there.
• SAB Maltings, SAB’s barley malting company based in Caledon, forms part of the company’s value stream, and has the same water reduction measures in place as for beer and soft drinks. A project currently under consideration here is the installation of water treatment facilities to reduce water consumption as well as effluent discharge.
• The SAB Hop Farms in the George area are irrigated using permanent irrigation systems drawing water from farm dams that are filled from boreholes, rivers, or furrows out of rivers, during times of water availability. The hops can be irrigated in three ways – by drip, micro-jet or overhead sprinkler systems, depending on the farm and the type of soil. A neutron probe measures the field capacity and wilting point of the crop to assess water availability. Readings are taken three times a week to indicate if, when and how much water is required to maintain the correct balance at any given time. This has considerable benefits for the efficient use of water.
Water quality and availability is a key priority for the South African beverage industry, which is heavily reliant on water-intensive raw materials, while operating in a water-stressed country.
Along with all companies in the SABMiller group, the key focus is therefore to produce more beer and, in SAB Ltd’s case also soft drinks, but using less water.
“This is a big challenge for us,” says Janine van Stolk, SAB Ltd’s communications manager.
“We are very conscious that our portfolio of beer brands has increased, but at the same time we’re also very serious about reducing our water consumption rates even further.”
SAB Ltd’s current performance across its beer division is 4.4 litres of water used for every litre of beer produced, against the global industry average in 2008 of 5 litres.
The company’s target is to reduce its average water consumption to below 4 litres of water for every litre of beer.
SAB’s soft drinks division (ABI) currently uses about 2.4 litres per litre of soft drinks manufactured, with a target to reduce its water consumption to less than 2 litres by 2015.
“We have had a number of successes so far, and we are committed to continue looking into how we can reduce our water use within both our operations and our supply chain.
By implementing a number of new technologies and operational efficiencies at our plants, we are well on our way to meeting our water reduction targets,” van Stolk says.
By 2015 SABMiller aims to reduce its global water consumption footprint to an average of 3.5 litres used to make a litre of beer. In 2008 this figure was 4.6 litres; the global industry average is 5 litres.
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