In an effort to support and accelerate its members’ attempts to save water, limit waste, reduce carbon emissions and embrace renewable energy and green technologies, the National Cleaner Production Centre South Africa (NCPC-SA) recently joined forces with the Beverages Association of South Africa (Bevsa), a nonprofit organisation.
This partnership between Bevsa, NCPC-SA and South Africa’s national research organisation, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), is expected to be formalised over the course of September and October 2019.
Bevsa members to have production processes examined
The partnership will see Bevsa’s members (which include large and small beverage manufacturers) having their production processes examined by NCPC-SA. This is to identify areas where improvements are possible, according to Mpho Thothela, chief operations officer at Bevsa.
Currently, the local beverage sector faces specific challenges, which include identifying possible alternative uses for sugar (as sugar producers are starting to experience the effects of the sugar tax) as well as the retrofitting of beverage company fleets with technology which is more environmentally friendly, says Thothela.
This partnership will also investigate development and research opportunities for the sector through the CSIR. It will further look at how the NCPC-SA and the council can devise innovative solutions to some of the challenges facing the sector and its supply chains.
Heavily contaminated wastewater generated during production
Podesta Maepa, NCPC-SA project manager, has mentioned that water and energy usage make up a large proportion of the food and beverage industry’s input expenses. “Through the management of these resources and keeping them at a minimum, companies in the sector can cut down on their input costs. This will create opportunities to increase their profit margins, leading to possible growth and expansion,” Maepa says.
She explains that the food and beverage industry tends to generate a large amount of heavily-contaminated wastewater during production. In some cases, production makes up for approximately 40% of the total water consumption on-site, of which 60% becomes effluent. South Africa is a water-scarce country, Maepa stresses. Even though water is considered relatively cheap, the country is in much distress as a result of water shortages, she explains.
“Wastewater has a negative impact on the environment, resulting in the pollution of water streams and the destabilisation and degradation of the ecosystem,” Maepa continues. “It is, therefore, crucial for the industry to use less fresh water and curb the generation of wastewater. This will lead to the reduction of disposal costs and the avoidance of municipal fines imposed on businesses that dispose of untreated wastewater through the municipal main,” she says.
Potential to lower energy consumption through energy system optimisation
Maepa says the fact that most food and beverage companies are extremely energy-intensive, leads to significant cost implications for their companies. This also accounts for their high carbon emission levels. “Energy-efficient equipment should be used to reduce energy use,” she recommends.
Maepa also notes that, since the majority of food and beverage companies are heavy users of steam and process heating, there is great potential to lower energy consumption through energy system optimisation. This would entail the reviewing of compressed air systems, fan systems, steam systems and motor systems. Energy management and scheduled maintenance plans remain crucial for improving energy efficiency.
New SA carbon tax to lead to increased production costs
SA’s new carbon tax bill, introduced in June 2019, will lead to increased production costs in the local beverage and food industries. However, it is still too early to ascertain its full impact.
“The carbon tax will have the biggest impact on the cost of burning coal. It will have the least impact on the use of liquid fuels, with most companies using coal as a source of energy,” says Maepa.
Businesses will be liable from January 2020. The food and beverage industry will be subject to an emission threshold of 10 megawatts. Should the industry be proactive and begin to put mitigation measures in place to reduce and limit its carbon emissions, it will be able to avoid unnecessary tax liability.
Maepa says that the food and beverage industry should make use of the opportunity to engage with NCPC-SA. Businesses should use this opportunity to explore how they can be a part of the transition to green enterprise and a green economy through the NCPC-SA’s Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production and Industrial Energy Efficiency project initiatives.
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