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Rockline Details Water Reduction Strategies

Rockline Industries, a major manufacturer of coffee filters and wet wipes, is working to minimize waste and reduce its wastewater output 5 percent per unit of production by 2015 from a 2009 baseline by following a series of sustainability strategies.

The company, which has US plants in Wisconsin, New Jersey and Arkansas, is concentrating on five strategies, including designing waste out of the system, increasing manufacturing efficiencies, diverting solid waste from landfills, investigating alternatives such as reuse, recycling and energy recapture, and eliminating sources of wastewater from its operations, according to the company’s 2012 sustainability report.

Rockline’s water use was up 5 percent per production unit this year against the company’s 2009 baseline due a significant one-time manufacturing expansion, according to its sustainability report. The company required new line installation in three of its four North American plants. A larger-than-normal amount of water is used during quality validations of the new lines, Rockline said in its sustainability report. The company expects decreases in its water use figures next year.

Rockline’s products have varying water needs. For instance, water is a primary ingredient in its wet wipes product line. The company can’t eliminate the water in the product. Instead, it has focused on reducing the intake of water that does not go into its products, Josh Eldridge, the company’s environmental sustainability coordinator told Sustainable Plant.

To determine non-product water use, the company calculates wastewater as the water that comes into its plant, less the amount of water that goes into the product, Eldridge said. Rockline then runs this through its formulation calculator to determine how many gallons of water didn’t go into a product.

The company first compiled data on how much water was used during different formulations of its wet wipes products. This included, for instance, the amount of water used to clean lines between lavender wet wipes and fragrance-free products.

Rockline is focusing on those changeover sequences involving products that are more alike to reduce water use.

Rockline also uses some water, more specifically steam, in its coffee filter business. Rockline is investigating ways to use the steam more efficiently on the coffee filter lines, which run 24 hours a day, reported Sustainable Plant.

Rockline has also tapped employees to find new ways to reduce water and to alert the company of waste in its operations.

The global water technology market in the food and beverage sector is set to almost double in size by 2020 as concerns over water scarcity increase, according to research published in May by business data research center Global Water Intelligence.

Rising demand coupled with a fixed supply, and companies’ increasing concern over environmental branding, will boost capital expenditure on water technology from $3.3 billion in 2011 to $6.0 billion in 2020, according to the report.

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