Engineering News feature – 20 August 2021

The beverage industry in South Africa still presents significant opportunities for addressing water, energy and waste efficiencies across the entire value chain, according to Lee-Hendor Ruiters, Resources, Strategy & Innovation Manager the National Cleaner Production Centre (NCPC-SA).

The NCPC-SA recently concluded a formal partnership with the 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 the NCPC-SA wants to establish a system through which companies of all sizes and from every part of the value chain be 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 said.

From BevSA, the project is being led by 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 are different across the sector. The project plan has identified a number of activities in addition to the forum, including energy and water management implementation.

The NCPC-SA has already seen significant results in food processing companies through its Industrial Energy Efficiency Project. Tiger Brands, also a BevSA member, has implemented energy efficiency in a number of its plants, although to date they have mostly been food processing sites. One case study, at the sweets and candies factory in Jacobs, Durban, a project to optimise the steam systems saw a 38 percent reduction in energy consumption on the system.

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 tonnes. The total monetary savings amounted to over R 2 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, the 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.

The 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.”

The 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.” This applies to the bottles, boxes plastics, and labels as well. Even advertising and marketing collateral material.

“This approach supports the national drive by DFFE of promoting uptake of the extended producer responsibility (EPR) regulations. Sectors like the beverage sector are perfectly positioned be 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.

The Beverage Association of South Africa (BEVSA) is a not-for-profit membership-based industry organisation that represents the interests of the non-alcoholic beverage industry.

The NCPC-SA is a national industry support programme hosted by the CSIR and funded primarily by the Department of Trade, industry and Competition.

Julie Wells, Operations and Communication Manager, NCPC-SA. / / 074 899 9819