Sustainability From Start To Finish
13 July 2009, News release from Saint-Gobain PAM UK
By Paul Minchin, Managing Director, Saint-Gobain PAM UK
Making a commitment to the environment is about far more than recycling used paper or turning off lights when a room is not in use. For a key industry like water, it necessitates the creation of a culture with environmental commitment at its heart and at every stage in the supply chain, from start to finish.
UK Water has stated in its Sustainable Water report that the industry has become more sustainable but there is yet more to do. There are certainly major challenges to overcome - both with the existing infrastructure and from the potential future effects of extremes of weather that climate change could bring, added to a growing population and water-intensive lifestyles.
An important factor in achieving sustainability is supply chain management. Sustainability cannot be achieved in isolation - it must be a guiding principle in every link in the chain. Indeed, a number of water companies have introduced weighting systems in their tender processes for health, safety and environmental initiatives or in other ways are looking to their suppliers to demonstrate their efforts to achieve sustainability.
Saint-Gobain PAM UK has made its own commitment to sustainability and this is now driving many of our major developments. In a business context, environmental commitment is not about altruism. By committing to sustainability, we are also committing to delivering value to our customers and by developing the environmental credentials of the business we are helping to fulfil our supply chain obligations.
As a leading global manufacturer of ductile iron pipe systems, access covers and gratings and above and below ground cast iron drainage systems, Saint-Gobain PAM UK already minimises its impact on the environment as the raw materials used in its products are made from 97% recycled material, which in turn are recyclable at the end of their life. The inherent structural strength of iron also guarantees durability and reliability throughout its extended life, with minimal maintenance requirements.
This gives us a good start, but equally we recognise that there are improvements and efficiencies that can be achieved in the manufacturing process which will contribute to the reduction in use of raw materials, lower emissions and minimised waste. For Saint-Gobain PAM UK, the key areas of development include the reduction of energy and raw material requirements by achieving a 30% reduction in the weight of pipes and fittings without any effect on the performance of products.
A policy of energy saving and the preservation of natural resources is applied to each stage in our operations from production, handling and packaging through to transportation of our products. Weight reduction in our products leads directly not only to a lessening of the amount of raw material required but also to lower energy consumption and reduced carbon dioxide emissions. These efforts have seen our consumption of energy and raw materials per metre per year of life reduce by 75%.
This saving of energy and the preservation of natural resources can translate directly into customer benefits. For example, PAM Natural pipes have undergone much product development in recent years. Investment in improved pipe spinning technology has allowed reduced wall thicknesses of the pipes without reducing performance. This has meant that less material is needed to manufacture the product, reducing the environmental impact of the production process. In turn this translates into less weight to transport and install, thereby reducing costs and CO2 emissions for the end-user. We are also developing products which will last longer by introducing techniques such as our Natural external coating which allows the lifetime of the buried product to be multiplied by three.
Another major advantage of cast iron and ductile iron pipelines is that their laying techniques are kinder to the environment. Unlike most other pipeline materials, our products can be installed with as-dug embedment. The elimination of the need for imported bed and surround in buried pipes reduces quarrying, landfill and lorry movements, resulting in lower costs, environmental impact and CO2 emissions. Similarly, Universal joints eliminate the need for concrete thrust blocks for anchorage, saving an estimated 200Kg of CO2 per cubic metre of concrete eliminated.
Products designed to save time, money and effort also contribute to sustainability. One example is the Kameleo fitting. This ductile iron fitting can make any angle up to 45º and can be used to create a bend in place of two or even three traditional fixed angle fittings. This leads to a reduction in the number of fittings needed and thus a reduction in stockholding.
The reduction of whole-life costs is also an important factor in sustainability. The recently introduced Blutop small diameter ductile iron pipe provides an alternative to the small diameter plastic pipes commonly used for distribution networks, particularly in contaminated ground or complex urban situations where high pressure is required. This innovative pipe uses the latest technologies in ductile iron pipe spinning and coating in a unique combination of materials that combines the traditional values of a long-term performance of ductile iron with the flexibility of plastics. The result is a system offering leak-free reliability, easy handling, reduced installation costs and carbon footprint, and high water quality. The outstanding durability and performance of these materials offer reduced whole life costs over alternative systems.
As a major player in the water industry supply chain, Saint-Gobain PAM UK also has to look to its own supply chain in terms of sustainable development. While our supply chains for soil and drain and access covers and gratings remain UK based, a change to overseas suppliers for pipes, fittings and components requires us to be particularly vigilant on sustainability. Our purchasing strategy involves seeking to establish long-term partnerships that do not compromise on standards of quality, health and safety or ethical employment.
Developing the environmental credentials of the business is now as important as delivering product innovation. In fact, the former has led to the latter in many of our new products. Innovations driven by environmental issues are bringing improved performance and reduced whole life costs - and adding value to customers by driving cost out of the supply chain.
For further information please email Saint-Gobain PAM UK