Food and drink companies have cut their water use by 1.35 million m3 last year, accounting for a 15.6 per cent reduction in collective water use since 2007, according to figures released today by resource efficiency expert WRAP.
70 companies across 284 active sites, including Birds Eye, Heinz and Kellogg’s, have reduced the amount of water they use in manufacturing, resulting in £2 million savings for the industry. This comes in spite of an 8.2 per cent increase in production over the same period across the same sites.
Direct comparisons between past reports cannot be made due to yearly variances in the dataset, WRAP said. However, Greenwise reported in 2012 that there had been a 14.4 per cent reduction; a difference of only 1.2 per cent. Those who published the report also warned that “the easy savings have now been made”, indicating that there may be a significant slow down in progress towards the scheme’s original target of 20 per cent reductions by 2020, under voluntary agreement in the Federation House Commitment (FHC).
Today’s report shows that for the 236 sites with comparable data, the percentage reduction in water use, relative to the 2007 baseline, was 12.2 per cent in 2012 and 15.6 per cent in 2013. WRAP says that these figures show that the scheme is on track to meet its 2020 target of 20 per cent reduction.
“The 15.6 per cent in water reductions made between 2007 and 2013, by FHC signatories, suggests that they are on track to reach the 20 per cent target by 2020 (against a 2007 baseline), however, we might assume that the easy savings have now been made, and the remaining savings will be harder to achieve,” said a spokesperson from WRAP.
She said remaining activities were likely to require capital investment “which, for some companies, may be hard to secure” – making it harder to achieve further savings.
The report said the reductions so far, which do not include water embedded within products, is equivalent to 6.1 million m3; enough to fill 2,430 Olympic-size swimming pools. Water intensity, the amount of water needed per unit of production, also saw a reduction of 22 per cent across the same period.
“Becoming more water efficient is not only good for the environment but passes on savings to companies which in turn helps create a stronger economy and fairer society,” said Environment Minister Dan Rogerson. “I am very pleased to see the manufacturing industry reducing its water use and I hope others will follow suit.”
The reductions were made in a variety of ways. Kellogg’s, which halved water use at its manufacturing site in Manchester, installed a reverse osmosis water treatment system. The UK’s largest dairy company, Arla Foods, engaged its employees through a series of posters. Sustainable seafood suppliers, New England Seafood, undertook a number of measures such as repairing leaks to hoses and fitting an automatic shut off system to water supply.
“May I congratulate all signatories on the achievements they have made in reducing water use through involvement in the Federation House Commitment,” commented Neil Davies, deputy director for Site Based Regulation at the Environment Agency. “The environmental and business benefits of adopting the latest approaches and techniques in water efficiency are clear, not least given the increasingly apparent impacts of climate change.”
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