The commercial and institutional sector is the second largest consumer of publicly supplied water in the US, accounting for the withdrawal of over 15.9 billion gallons of water per day. Fortunately, businesses are also working to decrease this number each year, by focusing on long-term solutions and building regenerative value chains.
Responsible water use: good for the environment, good for business
Water is crucial to supporting life on Earth, as well as the development of truly sustainable societies – but our water supply is affected by pollution, climate change, overuse, scarcity and countless other issues. Therefore, as part of its 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water for all.
Based on this SDG, last week’s World Water Day brought attention to the importance of freshwater and advocacy for the sustainable management of freshwater resources, reminding businesses to take a closer look at conservation efforts. This is an opportunity for businesses to step up and embed more sustainable practices in their supply chains – not only to help the environment, but to meet the demand of consumers who are increasingly changing their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.
Water savings using recycled materials
Specifically, recycled paper and packaging can be a gateway to sustainability for businesses. Green America estimates that in the creation of paper products, moving from virgin to recycled manufacturing creates 43% less wastewater. Recycled fiber products require 9 times less water to produce, so it’s important to look for the right supply chain partners to help your business move the needle.
Water is used throughout the entire manufacturing process to carry fibers through the production system. Here is how that happens, and what to look for when building a sustainable supply chain:
- Machinery – Efficient machinery is key to responsible water use. For example, our equipment uses less water than standard processes because of the machinery’s significantly higher horsepower than typical recycling mills. The nine-ton spindle rotor turning within our fiber pulper heats up water by one degree every two minutes.
- Water reuse – Additionally, water used to clean and help break down fibers throughout the production process is collected in large tanks called “clarifiers,” where it is cleaned and reused. For our production, one gallon of water can be re-used eight times before moving to an onsite effluent treatment plant These savings contribute to our product’s low environmental impact, which uses nine times less water to produce than virgin fiber, as reported in our third-party LCA.
- Chemicals – It’s also important to pay attention to chemicals used throughout the process. For example, our wastewater also undergoes a treatment process that reduces COD (chemical oxygen demand) by over 80% before it is released back to water bodies.
Involve + empower employees to drive company mission
Still, it’s imperative for businesses to continue working to reduce their rate of water usage year-over-year. One way to ensure continuous improvement is by empowering employees to find solutions and embrace the company’s sustainability mission. To truly embed sustainability in its DNA, a company can make environmental stewardship a priority from the inside out, starting with its employees.
Our De Pere, Wisconsin mill completed a water saving initiative spearheaded by production superintendent Phil Nysse, which resulted in a minimum of 100 gallons per minute of fresh water saved. After noticing a sweating pipe, Phil and the Sustana Fiber team found a way to divert cold water from pipes near the end of our production line to the plant’s cold-water supply, resulting in water savings of just under 8% per ton of fiber produced between 2016 and 2018.
Clearly, individuals can make a huge difference in saving our precious resources, and when they work with businesses, we can find a common understanding of how circular economy principles can be applied to sustainable water management and truly move the needle. In recognition of World Water Day, businesses must do their part to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water for all by 2030. Through measurement, transparency and innovation, we can build sustainable supply chains that lead to sustainable manufacturing, aligned with the circular economy model.
By Jay Hunsberger, VP of Sales, North America, Sustana Fiber
The 4th Annual Environmental Leader & Energy Manager Conference takes place May 13 – 15, 2019 in Denver. Learn more here.