SABMiller unveils sustainability strategy

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Recycling Brewing

SABMiller has introduced a series of projects and schemes in a new sustainability report as it aims to reduce emissions on beer by 50 per cent by 2020, cut water use a quarter by 2015, and take advantage of lightweight packaging.

In its recently published Sustainable Development Report it outlined how savings had been achieved in water usage, energy consumption, packaging and waste and set its targets for the future.

Spent grain and other energy alternatives

It said total energy consumption in 2009 was 23 Terajoules (TJ) (equivalent to 2.3m tonnes of CO2), a 3 per cent improvement on the previous year. SAB said it aims to reduce emissions from onsite energy use by 50 per cent per hectolitre of beer between 2008 and 2020.

Schemes to reduce its dependence on coal were said to be well under way. At its Alrode Brewery, South Africa, SAB said it has developed a biogas recovery plant, using an anaerobic digestion process. And in Hungary absorption cooling, using waste heat from the brewing process was another example.

The report suggested that spent grains – a waste product from the brewing process – could provide a significant proportion of the energy requirements in SAB plants. As part of a £27 million partnership, it said it was working in the UK with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to realise this potential. The joint research is looking at Lignocellulosic Conversion to Ethanol (LACE) from spent grains, according to the report.

Since January 2009, the Grolsch brewery in the Netherlands has saved more than 100,000 kWh a month using light and ventilation control systems, without significant capital investment, it added. And shifts in operations, such as the decision to brew Coors light at the Ft. Worth brewery, have allowed the business to ship via a much closer distributer, it said.

Water usage: technologies in Africa

In order to cut its water use by a quarter by 2015, the company, which last year used 722 m hectoliters of water to produce its beer, said it was looking into recycling water in secondary processes such as cooling and cleaning. It has set targets to reduce water use per hectolitre of beer by 25% between 2008 and 2015, equating to an average water consumption of 3.5 hectolitres.

New technologies and equipment were said to have led to a slight annual water usage reduction. Accra Breweries in Ghana, for example, installed a new cooling tower using recycled water, cutting consumption by 10%, according to the firm.

It added that it plans to invest in three new effluent treatment systems in Uganda, Tanzania and Panama and upgrade two effluent treatment plants in Ecuador and Colombia in order to meet its targets.

Packaging and waste: lightweighting and PET plastic

The company said it was exploring the use of PET plastic bottles, adding that it had undertaken a review of national recycling infrastructures for PET bottles in over 40 countries.

It also wanted to further exploit lightweight packaging to reduce the 2.8 million tonnes of waste it produced last year.​In 2009 its Czech business, Plzeňský Prazdro, completed a lightweighting exercise to reduce the average weight of its glass bottles to 0.64g/ml two other SAB bottles were also said to have achieved weight savings.

The company continued that it would look to reconfigure products within cartons to fit more in or changing the material used, for example, from corrugate board to film – thus cutting the use of outer cartons or boxes.

SAB said it had also introduced a number of scuff-resistant coatings to extend the life of returnable bottles, but conceded recycling infrastructures in certain regions meant returnables were not always a viable option.

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