Borealis AG

Borealis undertakes pioneering analysis of water footprint of plastics

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Source: Borealis AG

Borealis, a leading provider of innovative, value creating plastics solutions, has completed the plastics industry's first assessment of the Water Footprint of plastics materials. The findings will be discussed at the 2009 World Water Week in Stockholm.

A Water Footprint measures the actual volume of fresh water that a business or manufacturing process of a product or service removes from the eco-system or from other local uses. It takes into consideration the abstraction but also the water flow and losses during the production process as well as the flow back to the eco-system or other users after treatment. A Water Footprint is therefore the volume of water abstracted from local sources minus the volume released in the same place after treatment or directly made available for re-use. Evaluating the measurement against local water stress information allows the footprint impact on local communities or eco-systems to be assessed.

Borealis findings confirm initial estimates that the manufacturing of polyolefins has a limited direct Water Footprint - ranging from 1.2 to 6.5 litres of fresh water per kilo of finished product. But the indirect Water Footprint originating from feedstock and the source of energy used is more critical and can triple the total Water Footprint of the product.

'In a water stressed world, Water Footprint is a key concept to better assess and manage impacts on local environments and communities', comments Mark Garrett, Borealis Chief Executive. 'Knowing our company's Water Footprint will give us a better understanding of the impact of our business and, based on local impact assessments, puts us in a stronger position to prioritise relevant water management actions. We take our responsibility towards the environment and communities in which we operate very seriously. Together with carbon and energy measurements, Water Footprint will be a core indicator to advance the sustainability of our operations and products.'

The Borealis Water Footprint analysis was completed in collaboration with the Royal Institute of Technology of Sweden (KTH), applying the methodologies currently developed by the Water Footprint Network. The direct Water Footprint was calculated on the basis of a detailed review of water flows in manufacturing processes and production sites. It follows a pilot project initiated in August 2008 where Borealis together with its key customer Uponor investigated the Water Footprint of a polyethylene crosslinked (PEX) pipe plumbing system for a 100m² apartment. The pilot helped to scope methodological challenges and data gaps requiring more advanced researches. At that time, Borealis announced it would investigate methodologies and measurement for the plastics industry in coordination with external support from academics and business specialists. As the first plastics company to investigate the Water Footprint methodologies, Borealis is in a unique position to turn them into a manageable tool for the industry.

The Water Footprint analysis is part of Borealis Water for the World programme which underlines the company's commitment to advance best-practices for sustainable water management.

During Stockholm Water Week 2009, Borealis will participate in several sessions about Water Footprint.

Mark Garrett, Borealis Chief Executive, will open the WBCSD side session on the business case for tackling water, energy and climate change together, on Thursday 20 at 12:45 room K2.

Sylvain Lhôte, Borealis Programme Manager for Water for the World, will present: 'A new entry point for water policy and corporate water strategy?' on Tuesday August 18, 9:00 - 12:30 in Room K11.

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