Sustainability is embedded in our manufacturing operations and is a lever of operational excellence. We recognize the impact our operations have on the environment and the local communities where we operate and are committed to continuous efficiency improvements. We introduce innovative processes and technologies that improve our safety track record, reduce energy and water consumption, cut greenhouse gas emissions and divert more waste to beneficial use.
Employee engagement and commitment to sustainability are key to our operational success. To make sustainability more tangible for our employees, we introduced the “Big 6” concept in 2008 to focus the attention of Ball employees on the six most significant sustainability metrics in our operations.
Around the world, each Ball plant is accountable for these "Big 6" metrics and commits to annual goals as part of our strategic planning process. Each plant's performance is tracked monthly and reported to regional leadership teams. The businesses report their goal progress to corporate once each quarter and Ball's Sustainability Steering Committee reviews progress twice a year. To drive accountability and continuous improvement, goal achievement progress is also built into performance appraisals for plant management and operations leadership.
All of our plants utilize formal safety and environmental management systems. Since 1995, these systems have improved our safety and environmental performance by allowing us to monitor and manage our impacts and proactively implement corresponding compliance strategies. As of April 2022, 93% held EMS certifications verified through international standards, such as ISO 14001 and 45001 for our packaging businesses and AS 9100 for our aerospace business. Ball’s global environmental policy describes our expectations for managing and continually reducing our environmental impacts.
In every step—from concept, design, manufacturing and filling to delivery of the final product to the consumer—innovation helps us identify and drive profitable growth. We work closely with our customers to understand their businesses and consumer demand, as well as the challenges and trends they encounter so we can develop industry-leading packaging solutions and graphics to help them grow their businesses.
Often invisible to the outside world, many of Ball’s successful product and process innovations—such as weight optimization of our cans or increasing manufacturing speeds—provide significant environmental and economic benefits to the company, our customers and consumers. We evaluate innovations through a variety of lenses, including consumer benefits, carbon footprints, costs and the impact of new products on the recycling process.
Our intent is to make the lightest metal containers possible while meeting the performance requirements of our customers. Even small weight optimizations save significant amounts of metal, costs, energy and emissions when multiplied by the billions of containers that Ball produces each year (click here for an example). That is why weight optimization represents a major contribution to our 2030 resource efficiency goals.
Our global portfolio of STARcans is setting new standards for weight optimization. Compared to other beverage cans of the same size, it reduces weight by 3% to 8%. In 2021, we announced a new commitment to use lightweight STARcan designs in 80% of our global beverage can production by 2030. By the end of 2021, STARcans accounted for 23% of the global volume of aluminum beverage cans we produced, saving 6,100 metric tons of aluminum during the year, equivalent to reducing approximately 27,760 metric tons of GHG emissions.
Aerosol can manufacturing technology had not changed for several decades, but this changed in 2010 when Ball started working on ReAl®, a revolutionary new aerosol can technology that offers multiple economic and environmental advantages.
Ball’s Aerosol Packaging business has developed ReAl®, a lightweight alternative to standard aluminium used in aerosol can manufacturing. ReAl® permits up to a 30% lighter container than standard aluminium. Visit our ReAl® page to learn more about this innovative technology. Globally, our Aerosol division has now converted 45% of its production to lightweight ReAl cans, saving 1,990 metric tons of aluminum throughout the year, which equates to reducing to approximately 16,400 metric tons of GHG emissions.
Weight optimization of our cans contributes significantly to reducing our carbon footprint. The less metal we use per container, the smaller the amount of embedded carbon. We intend to make the lightest possible metal containers while meeting our customers’ performance requirements. Weight optimization is also a key contributor to our customers’ value chain carbon footprint reduction efforts. Weight optimization saves significant metal, costs, energy and emissions when multiplied by the more than 100 billion cans Ball produces each year.
Because access to fresh water is vital to consumers, our customers, our suppliers and Ball, we hold ourselves accountable for conserving and protecting water resources in our products, the communities where we operate and our entire value chain. A growing world population with greater demands for water-intensive food and energy, combined with increasing water needs and severe pollution of water resources in emerging economies, pose significant water supply constraints in some regions.
We are responsible stewards of water, using as little as possible for each product we produce. We continue implementing projects to better understand and manage regional and local water impacts. In 2021, Ball used 10.29 million cubic meters of water worldwide, primarily for forming, washing, rinsing and cooling. Our global beverage packaging business accounted for 94% of the total. To ensure we have reliable data, we engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC to provide limited assurance in relation to our 2021 water consumption.
Ball’s most water-intensive process is washing our cans during manufacturing. On average, washers account for about two-thirds of the total water consumption in a beverage can plant. To create efficiencies, Ball’s washer process occurs in counter-current cascades to reuse water at different washing stages.
To better understand, monitor and improve our water usage, Ball continues to invest in breakthrough technologies and innovative equipment that will allow us to change how much water we use in our operations. For example, many plants are replacing traditional deionizing water filtration with reverse osmosis systems. Water that has been treated through reverse osmosis can be recirculated and re-used more easily than water that has been deionized. We also invested in wastewater treatment technologies, evaluated advanced treatment options for effluents and installed several pilot systems to enable water reuse. Additionally, we are transitioning to new washer systems that will improve water efficiency.
In several plants, we also appointed and trained local water champions. These employees analyze water data, control water-consuming equipment and drive enhancements. While our goal is to reduce water consumption as much as possible, we also must diligently monitor the quality of produced cans. If we reduce the water intake of washers too much, the quality of our cans is affected and spoilage increases.
Because water is used in many steps along the packaging value chain—whether in mining and metal manufacturing or electricity generation—as well as in the production of the products that are put into our packaging, we maintain an open dialogue with our suppliers, customers and the communities where we operate.
MAPPING OUR WATER-RELATED RISKS
By making use of the globally recognized WRI Aqueduct tool, we have established that the majority of our beverage packaging plants today (57%) are in low or low-to-medium water risk locations, with 23% in medium-to-high risk areas. However, 18.5% are in high risk areas, with the remaining 1.5% designated as extremely high risk. WRI considers issues such as water stress, baseline depletion, interannual and seasonal variability, groundwater table decline, coastal and riverine flood risks, drought propensity, untreated wastewater, coastal eutrophication potential and the availability of drinking water.
We continue to focus on reducing water usage across our plants; however, we focus our efforts on plants where water availability is an issue for local communities or where it creates operational challenges for us. As part of our 2030 water goal, in 2021 we began developing a roadmap for water management for our beverage packaging manufacturing plants, which includes guidance on water reduction, water recycling and local watershed engagement in areas of high water stress. We will pilot this management plan in 2022 at one of our high risk water sites prior to rolling it out to the global network.
Material use and waste volumes are important yardsticks in evaluating the efficiency of our processes. Reducing spoilage in our manufacturing processes and recycling all metal production scrap are the most obvious ways that Ball can conserve resources and generate additional revenue. As our business continues to evolve and production volumes grow, our waste strategy remains the same—focus on systematically reducing the amount of waste generated, eliminating waste sent to landfills and increasing recycling rates.
Approximately 87% of the total waste generated by Ball is metal manufacturing scrap. All of that scrap is sent back to our suppliers and remelted so it can be reused in new metal applications. Our waste management efforts focused on reducing the remaining waste streams which totaled 86, 110 thousand metric tons globally in 2021.
DATA AND EMPLOYEE COMMITMENT
Because waste classifications and disposal methods vary from country to country, based on legal requirements and local infrastructure, reporting accurate waste data in a timely and consistent way throughout our global operations is a complex task. In cooperation with waste management contractors around the world, we have utilized a standardized waste data collection process globally since 2008. Ball is continuing to refine global waste classifications and further align monthly waste generation and material diversion category reporting for all manufacturing plants.
The monitoring provides insight on where the biggest opportunities exist to reduce waste and divert it from less beneficial streams like landfill and waste-to-energy. We continue to educate our employees about the benefits of recycling, provide a convenient recycling infrastructure in our facilities and cultivate a conservation mindset. Operations leaders and facility management support plant efforts and provide assistance. Since 2015, we have increased the amount of waste that is recycled and reused 55%.
MINIMIZING WASTE TO LANDFILL
By the end of 2021, 42 of our over 70 packaging manufacturing plants worldwide sent zero waste to landfill. Only 6% of the total waste Ball generated in 2021 was sent to landfills. Diverting waste from landfills is a challenge in some regions, especially when landfill costs are low or when waste must be shipped over long distances for alternative treatment options. Therefore, our long-term goal is to minimize waste sent to landfill when it is environmentally sound and economically feasible.
Since 2008, we have diverted the filter cake in our operations from landfills. Filter cake accumulates during wastewater filtration and represents the largest waste stream by weight in our aluminum beverage can plants, accounting for up to 60% of a plant’s total waste. Ball has continued to identify opportunities to divert filter cakes from the waste stream. Some recent solutions include using filter cakes for alternative daily cover on landfills and as an ingredient in cement kiln processing.
As we are driving to reach 100% renewable energy around the world, we are also improving energy efficiency at all of our manufacturing plants.
Although Ball facilities are typically located in industrial zoning sites, as part of the ASI certification process, we have begun undergoing an internal biodiversity audit of several manufacturing facilities. Examples below describe efforts underway across our regions.
Twenty-two acres of land on our 56-acre plant site in Rome, Georgia, have been certified as a “Wildlife at Work” site by the Wildlife Habitat Council – a nonprofit, non-lobbying group of corporations, conservation organizations and individuals dedicated to enhancing and restoring wildlife habitat. Rome employees have built nesting structures on the land to enhance habitat for birds of prey. They also constructed wildflower gardens to improve habitat for native pollinators.
Another example of how Ball supports biodiversity is from our Bierne, France, plant. When the plant built a new watershed basin for rainwater, employees developed a biotope on top of it where numerous animals and regional plants settled in the meantime. Employees use the grounds for their breaks and every visitor can learn about the special habitat when onsite. This initiative has been rewarded with the “Environmental Performance Award” by the regional chamber of commerce and the trophy of the best environmental performance by the north regional council and the French environmental ministry.
Using the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT) developed by the UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre and Geospatial Data Management System (SIGEO) tool developed by Chico Mendes Biodiversity Conservation Institute (ICMBio), we determined none of the Ball facilities in South America are located in nationally protected areas. An example of how Ball BPSA supports biodiversity is by keeping a reforestation area with native species at our plant site Três Rios, Brazil.