Coca-Cola’s world-class green bottling facility

Submitted by: Tholakele Nene, Wednesday, November 6, 2013

<p>Solar panels at the Valpre plant generate up to 35 kWhs of electricity for the administration office (Source: Camilla Osbourne, Coca-Cola) </p>

Solar panels at the Valpre plant generate up to 35 kWhs of electricity for the administration office (Source: Camilla Osbourne, Coca-Cola) 

Internationally recognised beverage company Coca-Cola has invested R400 million into the development, construction and design of a green bottling plant for its Valpre product in Heidelberg, southeast of Johannesburg.

The plant sits on 570 hectares of land and has been designed to reduce water use, minimise waste and to promote the usage of renewable energy.

Zipporah Maubane, Head of Communication at Coca-Cola, states, “The Valpre plant is one of the most environmentally friendly bottling plants on the continent. The plant and office suite are designed to maximise recycled material and make optimal use of water and solar energy.”

Investing in greener methods

Explaining the reason behind the development of a green plant Maubane says, “We invested in green technology because we knew that operating this plant sustainably would provide us a more secure return on investment in the future. We understand that some resources are finite, so if we can replenish these resources while we operate, we are contributing to the sustainability and longevity of value creation,” says Maubane.

Water management

In order to ensure that the plant would have a sustainable source of water, the roof of the building was designed to allow for the capture and storage of rainwater. The water that is collected off the roof is stored in an underground tank and used to irrigate vegetation on the premises and to flush toilets, adds Maubane.

Waste management

In order to minimise waste, the plant has set a zero waste to landfill target and currently recycles 99%of its waste and treats 100 %of its effluent water waste, says Maubane. Furthermore, the packaging used for the Valpre water product is fully recyclable and partially made from plant-based material rather than oil. When compared with traditional PET plastic bottles, this unique packaging has helped to reduce the carbon footprint associated with the production of the Valpre bottles and reduced their dependence on fossil fuels. According to Maubane, this method proved to be highly effective in 2010 when it eliminated almost 30, 000 metric tons of carbon dioxide- “the equivalent impact of approximately 60, 000barrels of oil from our PET bottles.”

Renewable energy

Maubane states that the plant’s administration office is fully powered by solar PV panels.  Refentse Puso,   Valpre plant manager, says that the solar panels generate up to 35 kWhs of electricity for the administration office depending on the time of the year.

Carbon emissions

Maubane explains that the site was chosen because of its proximity to the company market and distribution sites in the Gauteng region. This ensures that both transport costs and carbon emissions are reduced, she adds.

Local Economic Development

The plant also places local economic development and women empowerment at its forefront by employing female community workers to run the operations at the plant, “another interesting element of Valpre is that we have a significant number of black female operators on the plant floor operations from the local community. We are determined to advance women in the workplace and make opportunities available for them in the previously male dominated roles,” says Maubane.

Carving a greener future

Maubane explains that the plant is the first LEED-certified plant (an international green building standard) in Africa, “which exclusively produces Valpre Spring water and was the first to introduce Plant bottle packaging to the continent,” but what makes the plant stand out according to Maubane is that “it has a specific focus on addressing climate change in the country in its day to day operations.”

Looking towards the future Maubane says, “in all our bottling plants, we are working to stabilise an emissions system worldwide, while also achieving a 5% absolute emissions reduction in developed countries by 2015. We are committed to growing the business without growing the energy uptake in our manufacturing operations.”

The two year old Valpre plant recently received its first green award, an Eco-Logic Award in the climate change category from Enviropaedia. The plant was praised for improving the lives of the community rather than looking inwardly at company needs, as well as the holistic management of the plant, says David Parry-Davies Editor of the Enviropaedia and Eco-host of the Eco-Logic awards.

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Tholakele Nene