The largest beer factory in Europe won an EU eco-management award for reducing waste to landfill by 90%, halving CO2 emissions and cutting water consumption over the last decade.
“Grow larger without growing environmental impact” is the slogan of Mahou-San Miguel, Spain’s largest brewer. The €1.1 billion business has gained one very particular fan: EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik. In November 2010, he presented the firm’s Alovera factory in Guadalajara with the 2010 Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) award in the ‘large organisations’ category.
EMAS encourages public and private organisations to evaluate, report and improve their environmental performance – and bottom line. The 2010 EMAS Awards recognised outstanding resource efficiency improvements since 2000, attracting a record 42 organisations from 15 European countries.
Mahou-San Miguel is the first European brewery to win an EMAS award. Its Alovera plant, Europe’s biggest beer-making site, boasted several innovations that impressed the jury. Primary was a 90% reduction in waste going to landfill through a push for better awareness of waste segregation. This included the creation of a step-by-step segregation process and use of organic waste as compost. Recovery of useable by-products rose to 99.8%. Glass and bottle labels are recycled to make new bottles and shoe boxes.
The brewer also cut energy consumption by 34% and CO2 emissions by 45% through an energy-management system to reduce heating needs and use of biogas as an alternative fuel. Biogas replaced 6.9% of external fuel. Water consumption dropped by a fifth, helped by complete automation of production. Packaging weight was cut by 17% from 1998 to 2008, compared with an industry average reduction of 12.5%.
All these improvements came as the firm increased production by 52%. The group invested in best-available technologies and reaped efficiency benefits. It set aside €5 million for greening operations in 2010.
EMAS registered since 2006, Mahou-San Miguel extends its green vision down its supply chain. It has agreements with chemical suppliers for use of recyclable packaging. Glass suppliers are required to accept waste glass from the factory for use in producing new bottles repurchased by the group. Wooden pallets have been replaced by plastic ones with greater capacity for regeneration and reuse.
In future, the brewer envisages using environmentally-friendly cleaning solvents to reduce hazardous waste production.
EMAS awards 2010:
EMAS has been operative in the EU since 1995. Over 4 400 organisations and 7 600 sites are EMAS registered. Fresh rules – EMAS III – entered force in January 2010. These aimed to increase participation in the voluntary scheme by extending it to organisations outside Europe, reducing fees for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and wider promotion. Environmental reporting requirements were also strengthened.