Water footprint analysis: another sustainability measure enters the fray

August 27, 2009

Officials at plastics supplier Borealis (Vienna, Austria) report they have completed the plastics industry’s first assessment of the "Water Footprint" of plastics and presented those findings recently at the 2009 World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden, held August 16-22.

Borealis CEO Mark Garrett has an eye on his company’s Water Footprint.

A water footprint reflecting the volume of water extracted from local sources to complete manufacturing of a product or service, minus the volume released in the same place after treatment, or directly made available for re-use. The Borealis water footprint analysis was completed in collaboration with the Royal Institute of Technology of Sweden (KTH). It follows a pilot project initiated in August 2008 by Borealis with its pipe processing customer Uponor, which investigated the water footprint of a crosslinked polyethylene (PEX) pipe plumbing system for a 100m2 apartment.

Borealis findings revealed that the manufacturing of polyolefins has a water footprint ranging from 1.2-6.5L of fresh water per kilogram (2.2 lb) of finished product. But the indirect Water Footprint originating from feedstock and the source of energy used is more critical and can triple the total water footprint of the product.

“In a water-stressed world, water footprint is a key concept to better assess and manage impacts on local environments and communities,” commented Mark Garrett, Borealis’ CEO. “Knowing our company’s water footprint will give us a better understanding of the impact of our business and, based on local impact assessments, puts us in a stronger position to prioritize relevant water management actions…Together with carbon and energy measurements, water footprint will be a core indicator to advance the sustainability of our operations and products.”

Garrett spoke during a side session at the Water Week event on the business case for tackling water, energy, and climate change together. His colleague Sylvain Lhôte, Borealis program manager for Water for the World, presented on “A new entry point for water policy and corporate water strategy?” Matt Defosse


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