The beverage industry in South Africa still presents significant opportunities for addressing water, energy and waste efficiencies across the entire value chain, according to industry support programme National Cleaner Production Centre (NCPC-SA) resources, strategy and innovation manager Lee-Hendor Ruiters.
NCPC-SA recently concluded a formal partnership with membership-based industry organisation Beverage Association of South Africa (BevSA) to provide support and technical solutions to companies in the South African beverages sector, focusing on resource efficiency, cleaner production as well as sustainable production and consumption approaches.
According to Ruiters, some members of BevSA – particularly the large multinationals – are already implementing more sustainable and efficient business practices. But this is not true across the sector, and NCPC-SA wants to establish a system through which companies of all sizes and from every part of the value chain are equipped to address water, energy and waste management in their processes.
“We wish to set up a forum with members focusing on sustainability issues, which can look at training needs, gaps in technology, case studies and success stores, as well as shared challenges,” he says.
From BevSA, the project is being led by BevSA executive director Mpho Thothela. “We would like to see a more coordinated approach to monitor impact across the membership base. It will help BevSA to understand the collective impact of the sector, which will help us better represent the needs of our members.”
Thothela says that members range from large household brands to small businesses. As a result, the capacity and scope for sustainability initiatives varies across the sector. The project plan has identified a number of activities in addition to the forum, including energy and water management implementation.
NCPC-SA has already seen significant results in food processing companies through its Industrial Energy Efficiency Project. JSE-listed food manufacturer Tiger Brands, also a BevSA member, has implemented energy efficiency in a number of its plants, mostly food processing sites. In one case study, at the sweets and candies factory in Jacobs, Durban, a project to optimise the steam systems saw a 38% reduction in energy consumption.
The plant replaced a faulty boiler, installed automatic controls on another, and replaced the old steam line that had numerous steam leaks with a new line. They also increased condensate recovery by installing two condensate tanks. These interventions resulted in improved boiler efficiency, and reduced carbon monoxide production. Coal savings over the ten months of the case study measurements amounted to 2 380 t. The total monetary savings amounted to over R2-million, and an investment payback period of less than a year.
Water is another huge opportunity in this sector. At the same Tiger Brands Snacks and Treat plant in Durban, NCPC-SA conducted a plant-wide water assessment in 2019. The plant operations team then implemented two projects: repairing the water leaks in the admin building cooling towers, and steam condensate recovery by repairing steam traps. As a result, the company saved 33 448 kℓ of water in the six months from October 2019 to June 2020, with a R1-million saving in utilities.
These interventions are typical of the type of improvements that many others could make.
NCPC-SA and BevSA hope that this project will not only help, but also inspire many members to look beyond their immediate manufacturing process to the entire value chain.
BevSA members represent manufactures, bottlers and distributers of beverages in South Africa. But according to Ruiters, a sustainable consumption and production approach looks at the entire value chain of a product. This means packaging, labelling, transport and more.
“The beverage industry is not just the manufacturing of the drinks. It is important to adopt a value chain approach when addressing resource efficiency and members should be encouraged to understand their environmental impacts beyond their processes.”
NCPC-SA believes that methodologies of resource efficiency, life cycle thinking, and industrial symbiosis can be applied to reduce waste and lighten the footprint of the products on the environment.
“To apply truly impactful sustainability strategies, companies need to understand the footprint of their product across its life cycle; such as what happens to all their waste, and not just where it gets dumped,” explains Ruiters. This applies to the bottles, boxes, plastics and labels as well; even advertising and marketing collateral material.
“This approach supports the national drive by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment of promoting uptake of the extended producer responsibility (EPR) regulations. Sectors like the beverage sector are perfectly positioned to support EPR, because of how integrated the value chain is and how companies work closely together. This requires greater exchange of experiences and practices towards resource sustainability,” concludes Ruiters.