The food and drink industry in England and Wales uses 430 mega litres of water per day, according to Envirowise, which offers companies practical advice on measuring and implementing water savings. It estimates that firms could save around 2030% on its water and effluent bills by putting simple or relatively low-cost measures in place.
To reduce water bills and manufacture products in a more sustainable way, therefore, around 40 food and drink firms have signed the Federation House Commitment (FHC). This is an agreement to reduce water usage by 20% by 2020, against a 2007 baseline. It is an initiative jointly developed by Envirowise and the Food and Drink Federation (FDF). It helps to provide companies with a systematic approach to improving water efficiency.
The FHC's Progress Report: 2009, details examples of how manufacturers can reduce water use. Some of these include: rainwater harvesting as a way of cutting back on mains water, which can be used to wash delivery vans or toilet flushing; switching to dry cleaning operations; effluent treatment; recovery and re-use of water; replacing taps; installation of water meters to monitor usage and wastage; and running staff education programmes.
"Up to 30% of a company's water and effluent bill can be cut by implementing simple water management techniques," says Kate Davis, Envirowise business advice manager for water. For example, a variable flush mechanism for a toilet costs around £20 but could save up to four litres per flush "paying for itself within a week or less". Simple measures can save thousands, she explains.
Dairy Crest, for example, spent £57,000 on a one-off measure to reduce its water usage, resulting in an estimated £200,000 saving per year. After identifying that its Hanworth site's water use was higher than at similar sites per tonne of milk processed, the group launched an investigation to find out why. The problem was that its bottle washing machines were using significantly more water than they were designed to. Because of damage and wear, the jet nozzle orifice had increased in size, resulting in the washers using a considerably higher amount of water. All 64 jet bars and 1,250 jets were changed for new stainless steel versions, resulting in a 16% water saving at the site.
"Water saving initiatives range from low- cost and easy-to-implement solutions through to those that require capital investment and longer lead in times," adds Davis.
Walkers' zero water target
PepsiCo, which aims to achieve zero water intake at its Walkers Crisps manufacturing sites within 10 years, has so far achieved a 42% reduction in water use per kg of production since 2001. Around 700M litres of water have been saved at its plant in Leicester. A spokesman says that the site achieved this through gathering data on usage and establishing metering, engineering solutions including flow restrictors and line mapping, feedback loops to reduce usage and increasing usage of recycled water. It also undertook a programme to train employees, including the establishment of water champions and tracking water usage between lines and shifts.
Companies can make savings, not just by reducing water, but also by reducing waste water. The Wrigley Company has successfully implemented a scheme to convert waste water into green electricity at its site in Plymouth, says the FDF. Previously, effluent from the factory comprising water and syrup from washing out production equipment was drained away. Wrigley established a new process enabling the effluent discharge to be taken off site in tankers to be used as feed stock for a local biogas plant where it is recycled to generate green electricity.
Financial benefits may be available to businesses investing in some water saving products through the Water Technology List, which offers an enhanced capital allowance scheme (ECAS). An ECAS enables businesses to claim 100% first-year capital allowances on investments in technologies and products that encourage sustainable water use. Businesses are able to write off the whole cost of their investment against their taxable profits made during the period in which they make the investment. FM