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SUSTAINABILITY OBJECTIVES AT CORE OF KIMBERLY-CLARK

Kimberly-Clark South Africa (K-CSA) continually assesses the way it does business and has strict sustainability objectives in place. The company strives to make a positive impact on the communities within which it operates and challenges its employees to think and act sustainably.

In 2009 K-CSA collected an average of 5 000 tonnes of waste paper per month as part of its global environmental programme, which was introduced in 1995 to improve sustainability relating to its products and processes.

Kimberly-Clark South Africa MD, Garth Towell, says Kimberly-Clark is aware that making, using and disposing of its products has a wider social, environmental and economic impact. “In this respect we are committed to making our products and operations more sustainable and the company has set itself ambitious goals for the reduction of energy use, water consumption, landfill and packaging waste.

“At our two manufacturing facilities in Springs and Cape Town we have reduced energy consumption by 24% over the past 14 years and intend to reduce it by a further 29% over the next five years,” he says.

The company has also reduced fresh water consumption by improving process efficiency over the same period, resulting in a 20% reduction in water usage per ton of tissue produced. Plans are in place to reduce this by a further 10% over the next five years.

Importantly, the amount of waste sent to landfill has been reduced by 70% since 1995 and Kimberly-Clark sends less than 2% of the waste that it generates to landfill.

“Amongst the most significant of our sustainability undertakings is our “sludge- to-bricks” project, which alone contributed to a 50% reduction in landfill,” says Towell. Every 45 minutes, 12 tonnes of waste paper is processed on the production line. It is pulped and then put through a screening process. After this, the glues and inks are removed and the paper is bleached with a chlorine-free process. The resulting fibre is then used in the tissue manufacturing process and the waste stream from this process is used in the manufacture of bricks.

“Added benefits include reducing the energy required to fire bricks, reducing the actual weight of the bricks by 20%, saving in CO2 emissions because of improved transportation efficiency. In addition, the thermal insulation property of the “slug bricks” is vastly improved, which means a lot less energy is required for heating homes or offices that have been built with them,” says Towell.

Kimberly-Clark South Africa’s sustainability drive has seen the company achieve ISO 14001 International Environmental Accreditation for its manufacturing facilities.

Towell says the company is taking environmental sustainability a step further by becoming Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. “This is in accordance with the requirements of international customers, who want assurances that their supply chain is in the sustainability loop,” he says.

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