Coke Improves Water Efficiency for 8th Straight Year

by | Jan 31, 2012

In 2010, Coca-Cola improved its water use efficiency for the eighth consecutive year, with a ratio of 2.26 liters of water per liter of product, according to its eighth systemwide sustainability report.

This was a four percent reduction from 2009 levels and a 16 percent reduction since 2004, the company’s baseline year. The company is targeting a 20 percent improvement in water efficiency by 2012, compared with a 2004 baseline.

Coca-Cola says it made efficiency gains through initiatives such as using ionized air instead of water to rinse product packages prior to filling; reuse of treated wastewater for landscape irrigation and truck washing; and advanced monitoring of water use and efficiency.

The 2010/2011 Sustainability Report reviews the sustainability efforts of the Coca-Cola and its nearly 300 bottling partners, the vast majority of whom are not owned or controlled by the company, with the four main areas of focus being water stewardship, energy efficiency and climate protection, sustainable packaging and healthy communities. The report is self-declared at Global Reporting Initiative grade level “B+,” and received verification by a third party agency.

In last year’s report, the company said it had a 2010 goal of returning the water from its manufacturing operations to the environment at a level that supports aquatic life, but estimated that only 94 percent of system facilities would be compliant with its wastewater treatment standards by the end of that year. In the latest report, it says that the actual figure was 93 percent, with all 200 company-owned plants in compliance. Coke says it now expects 100 percent compliance by the end of 2012.

The company also has a goal of by 2020, safely returning to nature and to communities an amount of water equal to what it uses in finished beverages and their production. Coca-Cola estimates that 23 percent of the water used in its finished beverages (based on 2009 unit case volume) was replenished through projects conducted between 2005 and 2010—up from the 22 percent reported the previous year. But it says the methodology behind this data is still evolving.

About 39 percent of Coca-Cola facilities have indicated that they reuse water before or after treatment, or use collected rainwater. Coke says it does not have exact data available, but estimates that its facilities have reused more than 2,294,000 kiloliters of rainwater or treated wastewater.

The company aims to assess the vulnerabilities of the quality and quantity of water sources for each of its bottling plants and implement a locally relevant water resource sustainability program for each by the end of 2012. To date, 370 of its 859 systemwide plants have completed such assessments, and 269 have begun implementing source water protection plans based on those assessments.

The company is investing in water footprint assessments to understand consumption in its supply chain. Over the past two years it collaborated with The Nature Conservancy on three water footprint studies: Coca-Cola in a 0.5-liter PET bottle produced by Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc. in the Netherlands; beet sugar supplied to Coca-Cola bottling plants in Europe; and Minute Maid orange juice and Simply Orange produced for North America. The company found that the largest portions of the water footprints it assessed involved the farm, not the factory.

Last year, Coca-Cola increased production volume while reducing global carbon emissions 2 percent compared to 2009 levels – from 5.33 million to 5.20 million metric tons. Emissions remain 9 percent higher than the 2004 baseline, however. The company has a goal of maintaining emissions at 2004 levels through 2015.

Greenhouse gas intensity, however, has improved 14 percent since 2004.

Coke is ahead of its goal of cutting absolute emissions from manufacturing in developed countries by five percent by 2015, from a 2004 baseline: emissions are down six percent compared to 2004, and one percent compared to the previous year.

The company exceeded its goal of installing 150,000 HFC-free coolers in the marketplace by 2010, with about 277,000 installed by the end of that year, and increased the total to 400,000 by August 31, 2011. By 2015 it aims to make all new cold-drink equipment HFC-free, with an interim goal of being 50 percent HFC-free by 2012, up from 15 percent in 2010.

The company also had a goal of increasing the energy efficiency of its new cooling equipment by 40 percent by the end of 2010, compared with 2000 levels, and says it achieved this with 100 percent of glass-door coolers and 95 percent of vending and fountain machines.

Measures to cut GHGs included a new combined heat and power plant that went online at Ballina Beverages, its Ireland-based concentrate manufacturing facility, in November 2010. The company has installed solar panels at facilities in Macon, Ga., and Coachella, Calif., with similar installations underway at four other North American facilities.

It also began construction on a landfill gas-powered co-generation system at its Atlanta syrup branch. The 6.3 MW combined heat-and-power system will use biomethane from a nearby landfill as its primary fuel, and is expected to reduce the bottler’s carbon footprint by about 20,400 tons annually.

The total amount of energy consumed by Coca-Cola manufacturing sites has grown from 54.6 billion megajoules in 2004 to 58.8 billion megajoules in 2010, but the company’s energy efficiency ratio improved 14 percent in that time, and one percent year-on-year, to 0.45 megajoules per liter in 2010. Improving energy efficiency avoided $163 million in energy costs for 2010, the company says.

Coca-Cola says it has more heavy-duty hybrid trucks in North America than any other company, at over 700 trucks.

In 2010 the company distributed 2.5 billion PlantBottles – PET plastic bottles containing up to 30 percent plant-based material – in 10 major markets. It says this saved more than 60,000 barrels of oil and sequestering the equivalent of nearly 30,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from PET plastic bottles. By the end of 2011, PlantBottle packaging was available in 20 markets, and nearly 10 billion PlantBottle packages had been shipped.

The company has three packaging goals for 2015: source 25 percent of its PET plastic from recycled or renewable material, improve packaging material efficiency by 7 percent against a 2008 baseline, and recover an amount of bottles and cans equal to 50 percent of its annual use. Currently, it recovers about 36 percent.

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