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Waste Not
BIER Guides Beverage Companies on Water Circularity

The Guide provides easy-to-follow processes, as well as important considerations when pivoting focus from on-site techniques to off-site circularity endeavors.

The Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER) has developed a handbook for beverage companies aiming to embed water circularity as part of their water strategy, at the basin scale.

The Water Circularity Good Practices Guide seeks to outline the how-to of successful pre-project planning and concrete steps for successful implementation, as well as considerations that should be made after projects have been implemented to ensure long-term success. The Guide addresses the emerging need for an easy-to-follow process that also incorporates important considerations when pivoting focus from on-site techniques to off-site circularity endeavors.

With the recognition that businesses and communities will need circularity initiatives to thrive, the Water Circularity Good Practices Guide presents the BRAID Work Stream (Benchmarking, Relationships, Accountability, Intertwined, Dynamic) — intended to coordinate the complexity of solutions, strategies and tailored outreach materials necessary to design and deliver impactful and sustainable watershed-level outcomes. The BRAID Work Stream is intended to help companies keep a pulse on engagement and operations simultaneously, allowing them to remain nimble and adaptable — ensuring continuous support by building public confidence in circular water reuse strategies.

“This guide seeks to coalesce insights already developed by BIER and other leaders in the fields of water stewardship and circularity with the ever-important and necessary consideration of appropriate stakeholders,” says BIER Executive Director Daniel Pierce. “We at BIER hope this guide can serve as an approachable and usable document to better prepare you and your organization for the task ahead — socializing water-circularity opportunities, particularly those off-site, to reduce our reliance on freshwater resources and improve the health of our watersheds.”

The Guide shares case examples of strategies by beverage industry giants including:

AB InBev (off-site)

AB InBev has been working in the water-recycling space for some time with a universal, long-term goal that each local solution must have a net-positive impact. AB InBev’s approach to water reuse begins internally — with the identification of systems where treated, reused water can be integrated in the processes where the water is consumed (except water going into the product or in direct contact with the product), reducing drawdown of freshwater. Once water leaves the facility, locally specific, end-use destinations are identified to ensure that this treated water had a second, beneficial use. Example off-site solutions include:

  • Effluent is used externally by local firefighters

  • Irrigation support for municipal government (public lands, parks, etc)

  • Road maintenance

Constellation Brands (on-site)

Constellation Brands (CBI) has been operating in Mexico for 10 years — a highly water-stressed region where water resources must be thoughtfully managed. CBI is making strides to improve water-use efficiency, initiating actions to promote better water management within the watershed, and reducing total water withdrawals. Initiatives include:

  • Developing a wastewater reuse partnership with other regional stakeholders

  • Utilizing on-site treatment of wastewater to integrate treated water into production processes that do not have direct contact with the product

  • Partnerships with agricultural industry

  • Sharing water risks

  • Investing in agricultural infrastructure (modernizing dams, pumping stations) to help reduce water loss and increase water conduction.

PepsiCo (off-site)

At a foods-manufacturing facility, also in Mexico, PepsiCo set an ambitious target to achieve freshwater usage efficiency of 0.4 L/kg by 2030. To reach this goal, the company developed a water-reuse strategy that included:

  • Tracking water pathways, to identify where changes could be made

  • Identifying and working with a third-party water supplier that sourced process water from local food companies for further treatment and incorporation midstream, to reduce total freshwater drawdown.

The new process enabled the facility to go 90 days without the introduction of freshwater water into the process — creating the company’s first truly circular water system; it achieved an efficiency of 0.16 L/kg. The goal is to require zero freshwater consumption altogether for an entire year. If the facility can accomplish that, the Vallejo facility would save approximately 550 million liters of water per year.

Takeaway advice from each case echoed many of the same principles: Start locally, and become familiar with local regulations on use of reclaimed water; then, replicate regionally and ultimately up to global scale. Ensure the quality of water (and ecosystem) the local community relies on is not impacted. Understand all the actors and interested parties within your watershed — stakeholder mapping is imperative; and you need community engagement to be successful. Companies must do their due diligence on environmental impacts (downstream and cascading); success comes from taking a holistic approach to wastewater reuse. Increase awareness internally to identify usage opportunities where freshwater reliance can be reduced or avoided.

Expanding context-based decisions to include local perspectives and needs — as well as how these aspects change over the life of a project — is instrumental in creating a shared language around, shared ownership of, and a deep commitment to circular solutions.