This is a significant development, given that manufacturers are experiencing ever-greater pressure to meet new climate control regulations, reduced emission targets and better waste disposal.
The work at the Rexam plant focused on improvements to its glass-melting furnace, which included a complete new design in order to melt glass with low energy consumption. The furnace is designed to reduce the NOx emission to the lowest possible level. It is now also capable of melting glass with high percentages of recycled glass (cullet).
The investment is part of the company's strategic plan, which sees the development and restructuring of its manufacturing base, serving to improve productivity, manufacturing flexibility and quality.
The total `cold end` - from annealing lehrs to packaging equipment - has been renewed with a complete new layout to ensure that operators have the best possible access to the machinery for checking, maintenance and cleaning. The concrete floor in this area has also been replaced and treated and coloured to give a smooth surface.
Efficiency has been further improved by the addition of specially designed robots, which prepare pallets and transport them to the packaging equipment by monorail.
In line with HACCP procedures glass reject conveyors are now located underneath the floor, transport lines are partially covered and the new, fully automatic, packaging equipment is totally covered to avoid dust contamination of the containers.
"At Rexam Glass we are committed to constant improvement and innovation and providing a better service for our customers," said Rexam marketing & sales manager Matthijs Jansen.
"The investment at Dongen will ensure that we can improve our efficiency, our health and safety procedures and our environmental impact."
The total project was completed in 60 days from glass to glass (last glass from the old furnace to first glass from the new one) and certainly puts the environment to the fore in packaging production.
Major food manufacturers have also been carrying out energy and waste-efficient schemes at their plants. Kraft Foods for example has just commissioned a food wastewater treatment facility at a US cheese plant, which it claims will reduce waste by more than 90 per cent.
The water treatment and cheese whey anaerobic treatment system, designed and operated by Ecovation, will also allow for the installation of new equipment to capture and use the waste treatment gases to generate electricity.
The next phase of the scheme will expand the plant's capacity and see the installation of a $3 million co-generation system that uses methane gas to generate electricity and heat for plant processing. The system will generate a full one megawatt of electricity and simultaneously provide heat for plant processing.
This system represents about a 70 per cent efficiency gain over traditional electric power consumption; it will help control energy costs and benefit the environment by reducing landfill disposal volume and costs. It will also permit the retirement of a less-efficient natural gas-fired boiler.
There is great pressure on manufacturers to increase their energy efficiency. EU ETS is one of the policies being introduced across Europe to tackle emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and combat the serious threat of climate change.
The scheme comes into force on 1 January 2005, and is designed to ensure that greenhouse gas emissions in the energy and industry sectors are cut at least cost to the economy and help the EU and its Member States meet their emission targets under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
The environmental regulator has cautioned food and drink manufacturers that if they fail to comply with essential environmental legislation they risk hefty fines.