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Resource efficiency: water and energy

Sustainable resource management and resource efficiency are essential for sustainable development. That is why VPK Group is committed to putting all of its resources – including energy, water and materials – to the best possible use.

Reducing energy consumption

Responsible production starts with a sound use of energy. In that regard, VPK Group has built its energy strategy on three principles: 

  • Use less: The best energy is the energy that is not used. Hence, we invest in energy-efficient equipment, ranging from LED lighting to energy-saving mills.
  • Use to the fullest: It is our ambition to get the most out of the energy we use. That is why we invest in equipment and technology that for instance generates both steam and electricity that we can both use to fuel our processes.
  • Use renewables: At various sites, we are implementing a variety of renewable energy technologies based on solar power, biomass, biogas, etc.

How do we put this into practice? VPK's largest paper mill - in Oudegem (Belgium) - is energy self-sufficient, making it one of the most energy-efficient paper mills in Europe. This is thanks to the way primary energy is converted to secondary energy, combined with optimisation of the production process. It has its own installations to generate 120 tons of steam per hour and 25 MW of electricity. 

Blue Paper_Strasbourg
Blue Paper mill, Strasbourg
Photovoltaic (PV) panels installed on the roofs of our corrugated board mill in Aalst and the core winding plant in Deerlijk (both in Belgium) produce up to 1700 MWh of green electricity per year. That’s roughly equivalent to the average power consumption of nearly 600 households. The vast majority of it – around 70% – is consumed by the mills themselves, with the rest being fed into the national grid. 

In 2019, a new waste-to-energy plant at the Blue Paper site in Strasbourg was put into operation. The ambitious project, for which 25 million euros were invested, enables the site to convert its own residual materials into thermal energy and reduces natural gas consumption significantly. In addition, it keeps 500 trucks off the road every year.
VPK Oudegem
Water treatment installation, Oudegem

Saving water

Clean water is an increasingly scarce resource. So, we feel it is our obligation to reuse rain water, and recycle and reuse our industrial waste water as much as we can. In addition, we are actively reducing our consumption of municipal and groundwater. All these efforts are enabling us to limit our impact on the (local) environment.

One of our best practices? At our corrugated packaging plant in Longjumeau near Paris, the installation of a closed loop water treatment system allows us to entirely reuse the industrial cleaning water for new glue preparation. The cleaning water from the converting machines is first collected. It is then recycled and injected directly into the second glue preparation phase. Through this innovative process, no industrial waste water is discharged. Moreover, the plant uses 70% less fresh water, significantly less starch, and cleaning times are half what they used to be.

Read more on our other sustainability topics

Recycled paper is the basis of all our packaging products. Our paper mills are at the forefront of innovation in terms of energy efficiency. We continuously invest to close the production loop, supporting the circular economy, and putting all of our resources – including energy, water, materials and waste streams – to the best possible use.