The AGC Group takes in approximately 300 million m3 for use as cleaning water and coolant water in its production processes, and roughly 80% of this is seawater used for indirect cooling. Of the fresh water that makes up 20% of the water intake, efforts are being made to use less water in the production processes and to recycle water that is used in order to use water resources more effectively.
Water shortages are becoming a serious problem in some regions. This is due to the uneven distribution of water and lagging infrastructure improvements caused by an increased demand on water resources stemming from increasing population and economic growth. And in some areas, local residents’ daily lives are affected by water pollution caused by various factors. The AGC Group considers it absolutely vital to understand the conditions in each region and promote corresponding measures. In addition to determining sites exposed to high water risk, each region will establish mid- and long-term water-related targets and track the status of target achievement across the entire Group.
For example, with regard to water pollution, environmental indexes that include COD (Note 1) and are tailored to the characteristics of each location are established, and efforts to prevent water pollution are implemented globally. At AGC Asahi Glass, the target value for AGC’s COD-related AGC Environmental Indicator has been set at 0.3, and measures tailored to each site’s characteristics are being promoted.
With increasing social awareness towards the global environment, more consumers are electing to purchase eco-friendly products. In response to this movement, AGC Glass Europe (AGEU) is issuing environment-related certifications (Environmental Product Declarations, EPD) on a voluntary basis for some products, to provide consumers information on the environmental load of the products throughout their life cycle.
AGC Glass Europe
The Cradle to Cradle certification acquired by AGEU
AGC Glass Europe (AGEU) acquired Cradle to Cradle certification for its float glass in 2015. The certification recognizes the company’s excellent water stewardship, one of five categories covered by the Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard along with material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and social fairness.
To gain certification, AGEU’s plans and targets for reducing water usage were audited based on requirements set by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. According to these requirements, a company must demonstrate responsible management and understanding of its water withdrawal, consumption and discharge into the local ecosystem. AGEU was evaluated on whether it had adopted rules and guidelines for water stewardship, and its efforts to mitigate water scarcity or other risks in the local ecosystem. Moreover, water usage in its float glass plant was closely inspected, and the wastewater from these operations was tested for chemical substances.
Based on the results of the audit, AGEU received an achievement level of Silver. The company intends to enhance its water stewardship activities with a view to renew the certification in the future.
AGC Glass Europe
AGC Glass Europe (AGEU) has been working to reduce the amount of water used at its facilities and has implemented a number of specific actions to reduce consumption, such as reusing and recycling water, along with strong programs to track leakages.
These initiatives have brought a 27% decrease, on a comparable basis, in water use over the five-year period from 2009 to 2013, resulting in total water consumption of around 5 million m3 within AGEU in 2013. In 2015, AGEU used 4.2 million m3 of water, down 14% compared to 2014 (4.9 million m3).
The water used for industrial purposes is drawn largely from surface water, with restricted use of drinking water. Additionally, over 90% of the water is used in cooling systems that operate in a closed loop to minimize water use.
There are also efforts to reduce pollution of industrial wastewater, such as emissions of metals, during production. The plants in AGEU are not only equipped with wastewater treatment installations but primary measures are also implemented. For instance, limiting and replacing toxic substances used in Mirox New Generation Ecological mirror production has resulted in a 95% reduction in water pollution.
AGEU is planning initiatives to further reduce water use and pollution in the future.
Electrodialyzer incorporating SELEMIONTM ion-exchange membranes
AGC Engineering is engaged in the manufacture and installation of environmental conservation equipment, and sells electrodialyzers that incorporate the SELEMIONTM ion-exchange membranes.
It is said that about 1.4 billion km3 of water exists on the Earth, most of which, however, is seawater. Fresh water that can be used by human beings accounts for only about 0.01% of the total and there are many places where fresh water is available but safe drinking water is unavailable.
SELEMIONTM is used for the concentration of seawater in the manufacture of dietary salt and for the purification, recycling and recovering of valuable resources. The product can be applied to purify well water that is undrinkable due to high salt and nitrate concentrations to make it drinkable. Electrodialyzers with SELEMIONTM membranes are also used to desalinate the leachate from landfill sites.
There are plants designed to purify drinking water in operation in 10 locations around the world, while plants intended to desalinate industrial wastewater and leachate are in operation in Japan, Thailand, and elsewhere.