22 March 2018
by the Tetra Pak Editorial team
Water sustainability is one of the most critical issues affecting humankind. Our world population is growing. Our cities are spreading. Global trade and economic growth continue to rise. Along with this progress comes the reality that the world’s natural resources are declining, and at the top of this list is water.
Ideas Unpacked talked with Tetra Pak’s Jason Pelz, Vice President of Environment for the Americas, to discuss ways in which businesses can contribute to water sustainability, and how Tetra Pak is committed to doing its part.
Q: What do you see as the greatest issue in water sustainability? 
In parts of the U.S., when we have a drought, we can’t wash our car for two weeks, yet in Africa, many don’t have enough water to drink. These problems are at different ends of the galaxy.
With water supply, there are essentially two camps: the haves and the have nots. How do those of us who are fortunate enough to be in the haves avoid falling into the have nots? How do we fix those areas where water is already a critical issue? What do we do to help areas that have a dwindling supply ensure they don’t get to a critical point?

There isn’t one single solution. We must identify different solutions for different parts of the world.
Q: Why is water sustainability so vital for companies to embrace?
If we run out of water, we’ve got a problem. For Tetra Pak, if there is no water, there are no trees… and there are no Tetra Pak cartons. Even with recycling, you need water. I can’t imagine any company that isn’t affected by water scarcity. We have to take scarcity seriously because it’s one of the key base elements that, if there isn’t enough, we will experience a drastic change of life.
Q: How does water impact the food industry?
The food industry is very water intensive. You need water for crops, to formulate products, to clean the manufacturing equipment, and for safety and sanitization of food plants. Even to transport products – we’d have a hard time without water. How are you going to cool an engine? There are lots of areas where people don’t realize how water comes into play.
Q: Do you think the food industry is doing enough to facilitate water sustainability?
There are a lot of people and companies making an effort. But there’s still plenty of work to be done. There are companies that figured out a long time ago that water impacts future growth, and they have a strong water agenda. Then there are companies in the middle that are becoming more aware about water sustainability and are getting more involved in sustainability efforts. However, there are still companies in the industry that don’t yet have a sustainability agenda that supports water preservation. Maybe they haven’t clearly realized what the impact could be.
Q: What are some of the ways Tetra Pak contributes to water sustainability?
Tetra Pak’s mantra is to find opportunities to reduce water consumption in our operations and across the entire lifecycle of a product. We prioritize buying material from sustainably-managed sources, such as forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which upholds certain water efficiency requirements with tree irrigation. We are very selective about who we partner with, choosing to align with environmentally-focused organizations like the Aluminum Stewardship Initiative and Bonsucro.

We also purchase our raw materials from paper mills that take sustainability to heart and have demonstrated that their practices have the lowest possible impact on the environment.

All Tetra Pak factories comply with ISO 14001 standards (the ISO standard for environmental excellence) and apply targets for waste, energy, and water consumption.  In addition, our operations leverage World Class Manufacturing methodology for continuous improvement and environmental excellence. We offer some of the most technically-advanced, water- and energy-efficient processing and packaging equipment to our customers. For example, a new filtration technology makes it possible to recover 90 percent of previously lost wastewater in dairy processing plants – with potential savings of up to 1.6 million gallons of water and 820,000 gallons of milk each year.  Water recovery units for homogenizers and filling machines reduce water consumption by 30% and 95% respectively. And a new technology for UHT milk production reduces water consumption by 60% compared to traditional UHT production. We can also support our customers with consulting services that provide environmental benchmarking and suggestions for enhancement. 

We help customers find the roadmap to becoming energy and water efficient. Our expertise has culminated into a database of best practices that we can share and replicate with customers. 
Q: What can companies do better?
What works now is good for now – but might not be good enough for the future. Companies need a water preservation agenda that has the ability to evolve.

Addressing the problem of water sustainability is recognizing that, as we learn more, there is more we can do. Because opportunity and technology evolve, water sustainability truly is a fluid situation.

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