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Climate change is the world’s most urgent environmental priority, the challenge we all have a duty to address. This is particularly true in Europe, where EU member states have committed to drastically cutting their greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Reducing our carbon impact will have consequences at every stage in the value chain: from the choice of raw materials to the shipping of finished goods, not to mention our industrial processes.
AN AMBITIOUS PLAN TO DECARBONIZE OUR ACTIVITIES
Our first carbon accounting exercise, assisted by Carbone 4, dates back to 2009. Ten years later, with the help of the same company of experts, we conducted another thorough review of our CO2 emissions with two objectives in mind: firstly, to observe the concrete impact of our first effort to reduce emissions - the carbon emitted per tonne of glass produced fell by 11% in the decade 2009 - 2019 — but also to support the creation of an even more ambitious decarbonization strategy for 2035 and 2050. It set out a roadmap a road map and objectives that received the SBTi (Science-Based Targets initiative) seal of approval this past November 2022.
Two major actions, upstream and downstream of the process, allow us to save natural resources and energy, while also facilitating recycling: our use of cullet, and our organic decorative materials. At the same time, we are always looking to explore new measures with the potential to optimize our use of resources.
WHAT RAW MATERIALS GO INTO OUR GLASS?
Traditionally, glass is made with sand, limestone and sodium carbonate. This mixture is melted down at extremely high temperatures. Since glass can be recycled indefinitely, we have already replaced a certain proportion of our raw ingredients with cullet, essentially glass shards from recycled sources. In 2022, Saverglass used 73.3% cullet in our colored glass.
THE ADVANTAGES OF CULLET
The primary benefit is obviously the fact that we are using recycled material rather than extracting more virgin raw materials from the earth. The second is of a technical nature: the fusion point of cullet is lower than that of our traditional mix of raw materials, enabling us to use less energy and thus to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Saverglass endeavors to use as much cullet as possible, bearing in mind that the supply is dependent upon the rate of glass recycling -which still has room for improvement in Europe - and assignment criteria which vary from one country to the next. In France, for example, available cullet is distributed among glassmakers on a region-by-region basis. In Belgium, on the other hand, it goes to the highest bidder.
OUR ORGANIC DECORATIVE TECHNIQUES
A pioneer in this field since 2005, Saverglass’ Organic Color Play range allows us to decorate bottles using inks and varnishes made from organic ingredients. Not only does this process provide us with a very broad pallet of high-quality colors, it also has considerable health and environmental benefits compared with traditional printing methods. First and foremost, these organic decorative materials contain no heavy metals. They also allow for considerable energy savings, as they do not demand hightemperature baking at 650°C (like enamel): they simply require polymerization at the much lower temperature of 165°C. Last but not least, they ensure that the bottles remain 100% recyclable.
Our commitment to reducing CO2 emissions encompasses the whole of our value chain, including the Scope 3 emissions which account for 39% of our total carbon footprint. Our efforts on this front are focused primarily on raw materials, logistics and transport.
OPTIMIZING PACKAGING AND LOADING
Logistics (upstream and downstream logistics) accounted for 9% of our CO2 emissions in 2019. In order to reduce this impact we are working across multiple fronts, at the Group level and within each site:
LOCAL SOLUTIONS FOR A GLOBAL OBJECTIVE
Solutions for reducing CO2 emissions may differ from one site to the next, in response to the nature of customer demands, expected environmental benefits and local constraints. For example, thermoformed packaging allows us to arrange the bottles in a staggered pattern, increasing the number of bottles per layer by an average of 7% while cutting the weight of packaging used per pallet in half. Nevertheless, this solution requires us to invest in special machinery and is only environmentally advantageous if we are able to retrieve and recycle the packaging, which is not easy with exported products. As a result, this solution is only used at our French facilities.
In Mexico, meanwhile, although our trucks can theoretically carry as many as 30 pallets, US regulations impose a maximum load of 19.6 tons for road haulage, equivalent to around 25 pallets of our heaviest bottles. Our Mexican team has found a way of optimizing the loading of each truck, mixing heavy and light products by cross-referencing key data (weight, quantity available, delivery date, urgent requests, etc.). In 2022, the average load carried by trucks was between 27 and 28 pallets, two to three times more than 2021, amounting to a saving of around 40 trucks each year.
Finally, since April 2022 our US office in Kentucky has been sending out samples in packaging which contains zero plastic and is thus easier to recycle: the sellotape has been replaced with paper adhesive which sticks when moist, the bubblewrap has made way for dimpled wrapping paper, and our decorated bottles are shrouded in crepe paper. In 2023, this new system was expanded to the US office in California.
Saverglass has always been defined by its capacity for innovation. In that spirit,
we see the environmental challenges we face not only as ethical obligations,
but also as opportunities for reinvention. In December, our R&D department was reborn as the Research & Sustainable Development Division (R&SD).
CONTRIBUTING TO COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE
Saverglass is a regular contributor to collective projects involving laboratories and other glassmakers, working to advance the cause of knowledge and make our processes more sustainable. Recent research projects have focused on:
RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT PRIORITIES AT SAVERGLASS
Much of our attention, and our financial investment, has been devoted to designing low-carbon furnaces and slimming down our bottles, but we are always exploring other subjects too. For example, we have projects running in 2023 focusing on topics such as:
Saverglass has ambitions of becoming the industry leader in right weighting. But what is the “right” weight? In our opinion, it's the weight which strikes the perfect balance between aesthetic excellence and responsible use of materials. It is worth noting that this parameter has very little influence on our own carbon footprint, which we measure in CO2 per tonne of glass produced, irrespective of the weight of individual bottles. However, it has a big impact on the carbon footprint of our customers and that of our sector as a whole, and is thus an important way of contributing to the overall environmental performance of the industry.
DIGITAL SIMULATION: A PRECISE, COLLABORATIVE PROCESS
We have developed a specialized digital simulation tool which is now integrated and used by all of Saverglass’ development teams. This new tool has enabled us to break new ground and make our products lighter than ever before, with bottles now weighing anywhere between 10 and 30% less than they used to. Digital simulation can also be used directly in the design of new products in our development workshops. Mastering this tool has also allowed us to improve productivity - the estimates used in the design phase are now more accurate, requiring fewer adaptations when preparing for manufacturing runs - as well as the quality of our products (aesthetics, thickness, complex geometric forms)
This is the primary focus of our research and investment, as we seek to cut our carbon emissions by 50% by 2035, keeping our environmental promises.
TOWARDS THE GLASSMAKING PROCESS OF THE FUTURE
In its current form, and across the industry as a whole, the process of making glass consumes too much energy. At Saverglass, that is partly because our existing furnaces are very large (capable of producing up to 500 tons per day). They need to be heated to extremely high temperatures using gas, and cannot run on electricity alone, unfortunately, as electricity can come from carbon-free sources. Our road map for the future thus comprises several phases: to begin with, we will switch to a new energy mix (gas + electricity) which is compatible with our existing equipment and processes. The percentage of low-carbon energy we use (nuclear and/or renewable) will increase over time, as we continue to experiment and master the technical aspects of the transition. Our ultimate goal is to invent a hybrid furnace capable of running on 80% electricity.