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Sweet Green Tomatoes: Symbiotic Manufacturing Sustainability In Action

Posted By Paul Tate, February 01, 2013 at 9:29 AM, in Category: Sustainability

Sustainable manufacturing initiatives are becoming ever more inventive, it seems.

Talking with Dr. Padmakshi Rana yesterday evening, one of the researchers at the U.K.’s Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Industrial Sustainability at the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Manufacturing (IfM), brought to light one particularly ingenious example of symbiotic manufacturing sustainability.

British Sugar, part of the $17 billion Associated British Foods group, has devoted a large stretch of land near its flagship factory site at Wissington, Norfolk to growing 140 million eco-friendly tomatoes a year by using the waste heat and C02 produced by the plant’s sugar production process.

Over two hundred and forty miles of piping now diverts waste hot water, traditionally destined for cooling towers, out of the sugar factory's Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant to heat the U.K.’s largest single tomato glasshouse.

The quarter of a million plants also benefit from waste carbon dioxide created by the sugar factory, which is now pumped into the 18-hectare glasshouse to be absorbed by the plants during the process of photosynthesis - and adding a whole new meaning to the idea of 'greenhouse gases'. The site also harvests the rainwater from the nursery's giant glasshouse roof, collecting over 30 million gallons a year to irrigate the plants.

British Sugar, which produces over 1 million tonnes of sugar a year in the U.K., plus 500,000 tonnes of animal feed from sugar beet pulp, explains that by “using a highly integrated approach to manufacturing, we aim to transform all of our raw materials into sustainable products.”

“This provides significant economic and environmental benefits,” it adds, “with waste kept to an absolute minimum.”

Are you seeing ever-more inventive ways to harness the waste and by-products of manufacturing production processes in your industry sector? Tell us about those you find most impressive.

Category: Sustainability
Written by Paul Tate

Paul Tate is Research Director and Executive Editor with Frost & Sullivan's Manufacturing Leadership Council. He also directs the Manufacturing Leadership Council's Board of Governors, the Council's annual Critical Issues Agenda, and the Manufacturing Leadership Research Panel. Follow us on Twitter: @MfgExecutive


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