As a major producer of plastics packaging in Europe, we are very conscious of our responsibility to the environment and our own carbon footprint. Reducing the environmental impact of milk packaging is something that we implement at all levels of operations - from the products we manufacture to the sites where we produce them.
Early in 2010, we launched Nampak's first carbon reduction programme. At that time, our total carbon footprint was around 200,000 tonnes, with the largest contributing factor being the carbon footprint of the virgin polymer.
We conducted research to measure our own carbon footprint using Pira accredited methodology. From this work and based on current CO2 values from various sources, we identified that 59% of the CO2 is derived from the HDPE manufacture, 21% from the polymer distribution, 18% from the bottle manufacture, and 1% from the packaging material.
This study enabled us to develop initiatives to implement across the business with the aim of reducing our overall carbon footprint. Measures introduced since the study have included:
- Moving to an HDPE material that is made from gas rather than from oil (less energy input);
- Reducing the average weight of some our bottles by lightweighting;
- Adding an average of 12% rHDPE to all our bottles;
- Reducing the delivery footprint of material and bottles;
- Reducing our energy use by 7% through investment in low energy lighting and other initiatives.
By utilising the latest energy-efficient technology, we are seeing a marked decline in the energy we use. Significant environmental benefits can also be achieved by operating an in-plant model, where bottle manufacturing and filling are at adjacent locations.
This has two main benefits: firstly, it helps to reduce the requirement for bagging the bottles to be sent to the dairy, and then debagging at the dairy, thus reducing the quantities of LDPE film required. Secondly, the in-plant eliminates road transportation of empty bottles, saving on average more than one million miles a year and related CO2 emissions.
Nampak operates six in-plants throughout the UK and these in-plant operations have made a significant contribution to reducing our distribution requirements. Product design refinements have also played an important role, enabling more bottles to be delivered in a load, and we have also switched to higher capacity trailers.
We are also investing in reducing energy throughout the company by introducing various energy saving techniques including: power factor correction units in production with the aim of a 10% reduction rate across two sites; power factor devices on lighting circuits with the aim of a 1% reduction rate of total electricity used over all sites; improved efficiency of cooling systems; improved compressed air usage and automated machine shut off. These may seem like small-scale measures, but added together their overall impact is valuable.
The carbon reduction initiatives have delivered great results to date. Our overall carbon footprint has reduced by 16% per tonne of material processed over the last two years, which is a considerable achievement and equates to taking around 12,000 cars off the road.
Another key area where Nampak can further reduce its carbon footprint is through the innovative lightweighting of products. By making subtle changes to the design of plastic packaging, significant weight savings can be made, together with associated materials and transportation savings.
A good example of this is our recently launched Infini HDPE milk bottle, which has been specifically designed to be lightweighted and has significant advantages over the standard bottle design. In particular, it offers an average 16% weight saving across the range, with specific bottle sizes achieving savings as high as 21%. The Infini bottle is 100% recyclable and can be recycled in exactly the same way as the standard milk bottle.
Nampak's total production of milk bottles will move to the new lightweighted Infini bottle over a period of two to three years. Its introduction will help save the dairy industry the carbon equivalent of another 48,000 tonnes of carbon, which is equivalent to taking another 15,000 cars off the roads - on top of the 12,000 cars saved via our other initiatives.
Looking to the future, we are currently awaiting results of a further study on our carbon footprint and the most recent data collected will help to shape our environmental plans as well as form a benchmark for our future performance.