Manufacturing News

Growing push for sustainability

As the push for sustainability continues to escalate, there is increasing recognition of the significant opportunities that new value chains can offer.

Recently, the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) released a report entitled Towards Sustainability that documents member companies’ performance across a range of environmental and social indicators.

AFGC’s director of sustainable development, Tony Mahar, points out that the report also provides a snapshot of the growth made in sustainability reporting internationally.

“This enables benchmarks to be established and helps to progress the industry to a more systematic approach to measurement and reporting of sustainability methodology.

“The aim is to standardise sustainability reporting methodology based on the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Sustainability Reporting Framework,” Mahar told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

A number of AFGC member companies are making substantial headway in the drive for sustainability. Sara Lee Australia, which operates a large bakery facility at Lisarow on the NSW central coast, has implemented a major trade waste improvement project aimed at both reducing trade waste charges and improving the environmental performance of the plant.

According to the company’s national sustainability manager, Rick Davy, a 250,000L biological reactor tank has been introduced to add a biological phase to the treatment process.

“The general plant configuration and flow dynamics were also changed and refined in a staged process,” Davy said.

“Key aspects of the project include installation of jet aerators, commissioning of a 70,000L secondary balance tank to help regulate flow from the clarifier into the bio-reactor, installation of a PLC, and detailed monitoring.

“As a result of this project the plant is producing excellent water quality and the business will save approximately $1m annually in trade waste costs. In addition, reduced pollutant loadings to sewer of around 60t of COD per year have been achieved.”

On the energy conservation front, Sara Lee has installed new variable speed drives for compressors in the plant’s ammonia cooling systems, which will result in annual energy savings of some $100,000.

Reducing energy use

Capital outlays and process improvements made by National Foods at various production sites to reduce energy use have resulted in significant cost savings and environmental benefits for the milk and dairy products company.

GM for sustainability, James Hubbard, says installation of a new air compressor and condensate recovery system at the Bentley site in WA has saved about 470MWh and $35,000 in electricity and recovered heat.

“This project, at a cost of $27,400, paid for itself in less than 10 months and saves around 573t of greenhouse gas emissions per year,” Hubbard said.

“In a project with just a six months payback period, a boiler at the Burnie site in Tasmania was converted from fuel oil to more efficient natural gas, thus providing a saving of approximately $1m in fuel costs per year.

“And at the Penrith site in NSW, new monitoring equipment installed at a cost of $14,000, has paid for itself within six months. The equipment, which monitors electrical energy use for each processing section, has resulted in reduced electricity consumption of 377MWh, a reduction of 460t of CO2, and savings of $30,160 per year.”

At its milk manufacturing site in the Melbourne suburb of Chelsea, National Foods is also introducing a program to reduce water and energy usage and to minimise waste.

Initiatives to minimise water use have already saved over 29,000KL per annum through actions such as changes to rinse times and reduction in flushes for the milk pasteurisers.

In addition, installation of pulsing sprays on carton fillers has resulted in water savings of approximately 10ML per year.

Waste reduction

At its Botany plant in NSW, Kellogg Australia has undertaken a major program aimed at reducing the total amount of waste (particularly food waste) sent to landfill, and increasing the recovery of recyclable materials.

According to Kellogg’s, some 95% of waste at the Botany site is now diverted from landfill to recycling.

Between 2006 and 2007, Kellogg Australia reduced its waste to landfill at the site from 619t to 435t. This 30% reduction was followed by a further 16% reduction during 2007-08 and Kellogg is working to sustain this performance.

“Central to the success of this program is the involvement and education of employees in waste reduction strategies and processes, including the importance of segregating waste and the accurate recording of waste data,” a spokesperson said.

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