By Francis Kagolo
With the ever growing business competition, industrialists globally are now looking for better efficient ways of production to remain competitive.
In Uganda, four Ugandan companies have managed to save $7.8m (about sh11.4b) annually following the adoption of environmental-friendly production practices in a campaign intended to save Lake Victoria.
The Uganda Cleaner Production Centre (UCPC), a government-affiliated agency, said in a report that in the process to reduce their pollution levels to the environment, the companies ended up saving billions of shillings in the long run.
The report comes at the hindsight of negative attitude among most manufacturers against environmentalism.
“When New Vision and some environmentalists sound drums against industrialists polluting Lake Victoria, usually the latter react angrily over the negative publicity,” says Richard Kimbowa, director Uganda Coalition for Sustainable Development (UCSD).
“Not many businessmen are willing to invest in environmentally-friendly technologies until they are coerced by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA),” Kimbowa adds.
But UCPC’s finding shows that companies that have followed specific guidelines to cut pollution have reduced their cost of production and realised increased profits at the same time.
At least 20 companies enrolled for the Resource Efficiency and Cleaner Production (RECP) programme in 2010. And a recent assessment by UCPC showed that Crown Beverages, Sadolin Paints Ltd., the Jinja-based Leather industries of Uganda (LIU) and Skyfat Tannery had together recorded $7.8m (about sh11.4b) cost savings a year. This is besides the “significant reduced pollution levels from the factories”, according to UCPC.
“The mentality that producing goods and services with minimum ecological impact would prevent growth is wrong; in fact, it only encourages environmentally sustainable growth,” UCPC’s director Silver Ssebagala said. “It provides a win-win strategy that protects the environment and humans while improving industrial efficiency, profitability and competitiveness,” he added.
Uganda Cleaner Production Centre (UCPC) officials inspecting the rain water harvesting tank which Crown Beverages installed to reduce water wastage. PHOTO/Francis Kagolo
How they did it
The less pollution and cost-savings accrue from various means like recycling waste products and ensuring efficient use of resources introduced under the RECP programme. The programme, which targets factories in the Lake Victoria Basin, requires companies to put in place measures to reduce wastage of resources like water, energy and other material production inputs without affecting productivity.
Willing companies are also taught how to reduce pollution at source as opposed to the reactive approach of end-of-pipe technologies. It intends to reduce the participating companies’ pollution by at least 35% by 2015.
Crown Beverages emerges best
During the regional RECP awards held last week in Entebbe, Crown Beverages emerged the first runners up among the overall best performing companies in the five east African countries. Tanzania Breweries scooped the number one mark.
It did not come as a surprise to Crown Beverages. For the company is saving over sh6.1b annually from its cleaner production strategies including $5,400 (about sh13.7m) from harvesting rain water.
After struggling with huge water bills for a long time, the company spent $18,495 (about sh47.2m) to acquire a 114,000-litre tank in 2011 to start harvesting rain water. They now use rain water in the kitchen, toilets and sinks, as well as for washing soda crates and cleaning floors in the factory.
Sadolin workers packing filling jerrycans with paint using the newly acquired machines. The new technology has saved the company over sh40m annually on workers' overtime allowances. PHOTO/Francis Kagolo
As a result, the company environmental officer, Joseph Tumanyane, says they have reduced their annual tap water consumption by 4433,000litres, saving over sh13.7m costs on water. “Given the nature of our business, the company used to spend a lot on electricity to pump water around the factory in addition to bills from National Water and Sewerage Corporation. All those costs have come down,” says John Kayenje, the company’s process control manager.
Some $7,590 (about sh19.3m) savings have accrued from a $1,200 (about sh3m) investment on new valves to reduce boiler fuel and air emissions. The company also replaced three diesel forklifts with electrical ones, which do not emit pollutants at a cost of $173,207 (about sh441.8m) to reduce air emissions. In the process, they are saving $51,509 (about sh131.3m) annually, mainly on diesel that the old forklifts would require.
With such savings, the company will recoup their investment in three years and continue making profits. This has controlled boiler fumes from the factory, reducing air emission by over 2%. Other savings have accrued from recycling and re-using wastewater for washing crates and bottles, among other strategies.
Sadolin Paints sh255m
Sadolin, a paint manufacturing plant in Industrial Area, Kampala, received an award for proper management of solid waste to avert environmental pollution. Its success story is a result of interventions to reduce energy, water and materials consumption, recycle waste and ensure efficiency in the production line resulting into annual savings worth over $101 (about sh255.6m).
Jimmy Mukalazi, the Quality control officer at Sadolin, shows the translucent roofing sheets the company put in place to reduce on energy wastage. PHOTO/Francis Kagolo
The company replaced high voltage bulbs with energy savers. It also replaced a number of iron sheets with translucent sheets which allow workers in the factory to use natural light during the day. Consequently, their energy bill reduced by over $95,140 (sh240.7m) per year, according to Jimmy Okullo, the Production Supervisor.
According to Jimmy Mukalazi, the quality control officer at Sadolin, their other technique has been recycling waste water which cut water bills by almost half. He said initially the company used to pour its waste water into trenches, a practice that would pollute soils and water sources and the aquatic organisms there in.
Sadolin also used to spend over sh40m on workers’ overtime allowance annually which ended when it installed two high speed paint filling machines. The two machines can pack up to 500 20-litre jerrycans of paint per hour without any spillages which was the case with manual filling. The company also installed another plant which recovers used solvent from the waste water for recycling. Solvent is used to clean containers for oil paint pots for making paint.
LIU an example in tanneries
LIU, a leather tanning company in Jinja, is boasting of over $1.6m (about sh4.2b) through similar interventions. By recycling, LIU has reduced by over 40% its costs on chromium, a cancerous chemical used in tanneries to make leather waterproof and less susceptible to decomposition. The company bought a chrome recycling and recovery plant in 2010 which helps to recover the much needed chemical from the waste water.
Besides reducing the chemical pollution load to the effluent, LIU’s operations manager Nelson Agaba also says the recycling plant gave them over $13,700 (about sh35.2m) annual savings on chrome. “We bought it at $50,000 (about sh126m). But we saved lots of money when we started recycling chrome. It took us only one year to recoup our investment,” Agaba said.
Recently, LIU also constructed a drying yard for leather trimmings and offcuts, a conventional incinerator and installed a modern recessed plate sludge filter. These have improved their solid waste management to avoid environmental pollution. The interventions also reduced the bad smell associated with tanneries.
LIU's Nelson Agaba showing the machine separating solid waste (hide and skin offcuts) from the waste water for proper treatment. PHOTO/Francis Kagolo
Skyfat also recorded about sh764m annual savings from their interventions which include repairing leaking drums to reduce wastage of inputs like water, chemicals and energy. It has also substituted a number of iron sheets with translucent sheets in the factory to reduce on power bills and changed manual motor switches top automatic switches.
What experts say
Industrial chemists concur that ‘waste is money’ and that companies can become more competitive by reducing waste generation and also reusing whatever small waste comes out of the factories. Most industrialists obliviously argue that it is costly investing in cleaner production, but Ssebagala explains that besides reducing pollution, companies would save a lot of money if they adopted similar environmental-friendly cleaner production practices.
“At the onset, things like installing recycling plants may appear expensive, but LIU’s example shows that in the long-run it is cost-effective and helps to improve the company’s image and environmental compliance as well as profitability,” Ssebaggala said.
“The soda companies that are currently threatened by the growing competition can reduce their production costs and make products more competitive by embracing resource efficient production methods,” he added.
Anne Magashi, the deputy director of the Cleaner Production Centre of Tanzania, describes factory waste as “money in the drain.”
“In cleaner production, we focus on preventing waste; if you generate waste you will be losing money because that waste comes from the materials you purchase,” Magashi explained.