R50m biomass boiler for Durban factory

13 June 2018 | Web Article Number: ME201810274

Environmental Management & Control
Green Industries & Renewable Energy
Power Generation

FAST-moving consumer goods manufacturer, Unilever, has unveiled a R50-million biomass boiler at its Maydon Wharf factory in Durban that it says will reduce CO2 emissions, waste-to-landfill, and ultimately the amount of electricity used at the facility.

The event marked World Environment Day and was attended by Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs Barbara Thomson and KZN MEC for Economic Development, Tourism & Environmental Affairs Sihle Zikalala.

“By introducing this fossil fuel-free machinery into our factory, we are taking a step towards reducing the amount of wooden waste traditionally sent to landfill sites,” said Unilever South Africa executive vice president Luc-Olivier Marquet.

“The boiler cost R50 million to install, and we estimate that it will provide a saving of around R17 million per year. This figure factors in fuel savings, and will reduce the facility’s carbon footprint. The boiler will lead to a reduction of over 30% in CO₂ emissions and is projected to save 14,000 tons of CO₂ every year.”

The boiler is fuelled by wooden pallets, waste wood and off-cuts from local furniture and door manufacturers. Wooden pallets used as part of business-as-usual by Unilever are reused, and do not form parts of the biomass feed. The boiler consumers on average 940 tons of biomass a month – roughly the weight of 375 medium-size African elephants.

“Our new biomass boiler at Maydon Wharf is illustrative of the seriousness of our commitment to sustainable living. We have previously unveiled our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), which commits to reducing our environmental impact by half by 2020. This can only be achieved by putting sustainability at the core of our strategy.

“An important part of achieving these goals is to manage our electricity and water use, and to ensure that no non-hazardous waste goes to landfill. The biomass boiler is our latest step on this journey,” said Marquet.

The company is also actively looking at the re-use of condensate, heat, water waste and flash steam in its factories, as well as new soap-making technologies that use less energy in production. Further, it is examining the feasibility of a new drier vacuum and solar power.

At the launch, Marquet symbolically signed the company’s global commitment to ensuring that all its plastic packaging will be fully reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025.

“This undertaking has been made because of growing concerns about plastic pollution – and because it is the right thing to do. In 2017 we made an industry-leading commitment to ensure that all our plastic packaging is designed to be fully reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025. We will also increase the recycled plastic content in our packaging to 25% by 2025.”

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