Food and drink companies clean up from saving water

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Food and drink companies clean up from saving water
A raft of UK-based companies have made a total cost saving running into hundreds of thousands of pounds during the first year of an initiative to boost water efficiency.

Firms including confectionery giants Mars, snack makers United Biscuits and Walkers as well as Dairy Crest and R&R Ice Cream have reaped the financial rewards after signing up to the voluntary Federation House Commitment (FHC). The scheme, launched jointly in January 2008 by sustainability group Envirowise and the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), aims to achieve a 20 per cent reduction in water use by 2020 compared to 2007.

Cost and water savings

In the first 12 months, the 36 food and drink companies in the UK taking part saved almost 500,000 cubic metres of water - equivalent to nearly 200 Olympic swimming pools. This amounted to a collective 1.7 per cent reduction in water usage during 2008 – saving the signatories around £500,000 in the purchase of water alone, said the FDF.

Company initiatives

Mars UK said it had slashed water consumption at it Slough plant by almost 40 per cent compared to 2007 thanks to a £60m investment in water efficient production lines and state-of-the-art cooling systems. The company said the FHC scheme and the opportunity it gave to share best practice with other firms had been “invaluable” in helping it find innovative ways to cut water consumption.

Dairy Crest explained that by overhauling its bottle-washing equipment at a cost of almost £58,000 had so far yielded annual savings reaching £200,000. The company said it had been monitoring water usage at production sites for a number of years, but only starting benchmarking between sites on joining the FHC.

Ann Lovering group environmental manager, Dairy Crest: “We are already committed to continuous improvement of our environmental performance through our accreditation to ISO 14001. However, we see the FHC as a further impetus to driving down our usage of this valuable environmental resource.”

R&R Ice Cream said it aimed the installation of a new £1.5 million effluent plant at Leeming Bar this year would reduce the effluent’s Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) and

suspended solids to zero. This would cut discharge by 50 per cent and bring savings of £100,000 to the company. It also planed to use the recycled water in the wash

down and cleaning process, which equates to nearly 60% of water usage. - cutting back of water by consumption by around 25,000 m3, which will save a further £19,000, said the firm.

United Biscuits said it had made a water-saving of 17 per cent last year compared to 2007 through a wide range of initiatives including fitting bags inside toilet cisterns to more effective use of water from a borehole that saw usage from that source reduce by 75%. The fitting of trigger hoses and investment of new water treatment equipment has also paid dividends, said the company.

Andrew Kuyk, FDF director of sustainability and competitiveness, said: “The food and drink manufacturing sector is a significant water user and has an important role to play in helping to reduce stress on the nation’s water supplies. While there is still much to be done to achieve the 20% by 2020 target, we are delighted to see FHC members already making a positive impact on the environment.”

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