From: Reuters
Published January 28, 2008 09:50 AM

British food makers aim to save water - and money

By Jeremy Lovell

LONDON (Reuters) - Several major British food manufacturers joined forces on Monday with a pledge to help the environment by saving water, and with it money.

The pledge by 21 firms including Cadbury Schweppes, Tate & Lyle and Nestle UK is part of a wider initiative under the auspices of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) to cut carbon dioxide emissions and packaging and improve energy efficiency.

"The environment is a very broad area so we have cut it down into manageable chunks ... water is the easiest one to start with," said Fiona Dawson, managing director of Mars Snackfood UK and chair of the FDF's sustainability steering group.

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"We want to raise the profile of water as a scarce resource," she told a news conference. "This is industry leaders working together to benefit themselves and the environment."

She said food hygiene standards would not be compromised by efforts to reduce water consumption.

Britain's food manufacturing sector accounts for 10 percent of total industrial water usage, and the aim of the new pledge is to cut this by 20 percent from current levels by 2020.

If successful this could amount to savings of about 140 million liters of water a day, worth an estimated 60 million pounds a year.

Although Britain has a temperate climate and is more known for floods than droughts, climate change and rising industrial and domestic demand are turning parts of the country into water stressed regions, particularly the south east.

The FDF cited the case of potato crisp maker Walkers, which managed to cut its water consumption by half, saving 700 million liters a year by recycling, cutting waste and raising awareness.

Dawson said her company had managed to cut the water used in cooling chocolate by 40 percent through using new technology.

"Water is a good place to start. You can make savings of 20 to 30 percent at very little cost," said Martin Gibson of Envirowise, a government-funded program to help businesses reduce their environmental impact. "Success there gives business more confidence to take steps in other areas."

Envirowise has joined up with the food manufacturers to help run and monitor the water saving project.

(Reporting by Jeremy Lovell; Editing by Paul Bolding)

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