Emmi gets steamy with new eco-commitments

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Carbon dioxide

European processor Emmi has become the latest dairy group to attempt to play up its environmental credentials after announcing a new scheme to make greater use of what it calls ‘greener’ energy in its operations.

With the dairy industry, both at agricultural and processing level, coming under criticism from some environmental organisations over the impacts of its output, a number of initiatives had been launched to try and offset some of the pressure.

In this market, Emmi claims that from May next year, the energy used to produce yoghurt and cheese at its plant in Emmen, Switzerland, will come partly from steam derived from wood chips.

Working with the groups ewl energie wasser luzern and Amstutz Holzenergie, the dairy group will make use of a new wood chip plant that is expected to cut its heating oil needs by about 1.6 million litres on an annual basis.

The group says that steam currently used in the production of some of its brands comes from heating oil, which leads to heavier emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) gas. About 70 per cent of steam used in its operations is expected to be sourced using greener energy after the new plant is operational, according to the company.

“In all, Emmi will save about 1.6 million litres of heating oil a year, equivalent to that consumed by 800 single-family homes,” ​the group stated. “The switch to the wood chip facility means a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of some 4,700 tonnes per year.”

Expected to be in operation by May 2009, Emi says that 22,000 tonnes of steam will be produced from the plant per year for use in its operations.

Dairy drive

Over the last year, rival dairy groups such as Arla and Fonterra have also moved to play up their commitments to improving their respective environmental impacts.

The decisions follow comments made by the International Dairy Federation (IDF) that the environment is the biggest challenge facing the global dairy industry.

Eco-attacks

Not everyone believes the dairy industry is being successful in its attempts to cut the environmental impacts of the industry though.

Sustain, which claims to be an alliance for sustainable food production, earlier this year called for a choice-edit system of menus and food offerings in a bid to cut the carbon footprint of what we eat, targeting dairy and other livestock industries as key contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.

Citing recent United Nations figures, the group said that animal farming has led to the creation of more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, lorries and planes in the world combined.

Sustain claimed that this was related to a number of factors including the large amounts of animal feed required for production of a small amount of meat or milk.

Concerns over converting forest areas into dairy farm pasture have also been expressed by environmental groups such as Greenpeace, which earlier in the year attempted to reforest part of a New Zealand government-owned dairy farm.

The organisation said that the action was an attempt to raise awareness of its concerns over intensive dairy farming in the regions of the Central North Island and Canterbury.

"Large-scale deforestation and intensification of dairy farming is being pursued with the bottom line, not New Zealand's larger social, economic and environmental welfare in mind,"​ Greenpeace stated during the protest.

Related topics: Markets, Sustainability

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