You can add water to the mix of resource-conserving efforts involving packaging that include materials and energy. More…


Energy conservation has taken root in production facilities where, domestically, companies such as Frito-Lay, Nestlé Purina and Mars Inc. have installed solar panels to harness the sun’s energy for operations including packaging.   

On the vendor front, a growing number of packaging machinery and component manufacturers offer energy-reducing equipment, motors and drives, as well as interfaces that include graphic indicators of energy usage.   
Even as awareness and implementation of energy savings makes its mark, the next wave in sustainability-driven resource conservation is set to make a bigger splash: water.   For a number of companies, and in conjunction with materials reductions, savings in energy and water have already been bundled as a part of broad-based sustainability programs.   
Sunny Delight Beverages is an environmentally proactive company that achieved its 2010 goal of zero waste to landfills for its production plants and has reduced packaging by 6 million pounds. Speaking during a sustainable packaging session at Pack Expo SunnyD’s Ellen Iobst, senior VP of manufacturing and technology, predicted that, after energy reductions, the next big issue will be water use. It followed directly that the company’s sustainability goals include 25% reductions in energy and water use.
According to the Pacific Institute, more than 1 billion people don't have access to clean drinking water, and more than 2 billion lack adequate sanitation. It takes three liters of water to produce one liter of bottled water, the Institute also reports.   Add those factors into the packaging waste aspect, and it’s easier to understand the widespread environmental pressures on bottled water, especially for single-serve sizes.   
Recently, products from beverages to detergents have offered concentrated reformulations to reduce weight and carbon footprints. Third Street Chai and Cooper Tea Co., two specialty beverage companies based on Boulder, Colo., joined forces to launch Third Street-B.W. Cooper's Iced Tea Concentrates in May 2010. The concentrated form represents an 87.5% weight reduction in transport versus ready-to-drink tea and represents a cost savings for customers.   
Far less apparent is the machinery component to water use: Production operations demand a lot of water, including for cooling packaging machinery. This fall, Pro Mach’s Ossid division debuted an overwrapper that saves 375,000 gallons of water yearly, thanks to an innovative cooling water recirculation system. An 18-month R&D effort reduced cooling requirements from more than a gallon of water a minute to about the same amount per day. Ossid estimates that the system, which can be retrofitted, will pay for itself in less than a year. According to a Pro Mach manager, the water-pinching breakthrough made the machine a hot ticket at the recent Pack Expo Int’l trade show.   
These resource-conserving efforts now spill over into water reductions. You could call this a watershed period for the processing and packaging industries-and for the world.