Nestlé Waters North America Inc.'s new water bottle plant in Breinigsville, Pa., had its grand opening Oct. 22, showing off a number of features designed to reduce its environmental imprint, use less energy and recycle all the materials left after manufacturing is completed.
The 7-month-old, $116 million manufacturing, bottling and distribution plant - the second plant at the Nestlé Waters complex in the city - covers 576,000 square feet.
Three weeks ago, for example, the Nestlé Waters Lehigh Valley II plant shifted to production of the company's Eco-Shape bottle, which debuted in the spring and uses 12.2 grams of PET, compared with 14.5 grams in the firm's previous half-liter water bottle.
That improvement is expected to reduce the amount of resin the plant needs by more than 7 million pounds in 2008. For all of the water bottles used by Nestlé Waters, the change is expected to reduce resin use by 65 million pounds in 2008, as all of the company's plants will convert to the Eco-Shape bottle by year-end.
Nestlé Waters, based in Greenwich, Conn., also is building bottling plants in Greenwood, Ind., and Dallas that are scheduled to begin operations in 2008. The company distributes roughly one-third of all bottled water sold in the U.S. It is a division of Swedish food and beverage giant Nestlé Co., based in Vevey, Switzerland.
The amount of resins saved at Lehigh Valley II, which bottles the company's Pure Life brand, will grow in coming years because of increased plant capacity, said Dave Thorpe, supply chain manager for the plant. Thorpe is responsible for logistics and production.
In a telephone interview Oct. 25, Thorpe said the vertically integrated plant - which began operations March 22 - now has three production lines and two injection presses that make the preforms that are blow molded into bottles.
He said the current workforce of 115 - roughly 75 percent line technicians and 25 percent maintenance workers - will expand to about 180 workers in the spring, when the company adds three injection lines and two production lines, including one capable of producing 8-ounce bottles.
Eventually, the plant will employ 250 people, as three production lines are scheduled to be added in 2009-10.
The production lines use Sidel blow molding equipment with 34 cavities, capable of producing 1,020 bottles a minute. The injection lines use 144-cavity Husky machines.
Thorpe said the plant expects to produce 60 million cases, or 1.4 billion bottles, in 2008, most of them half-liters. About 40 percent of the current plant cost was for equipment, he said.
He said all scrap PET, both waste material from production, as well as bottles with labels and caps that are rejected for quality reasons, are sent to a local recycling company to be reground into flakes. In addition, the plant recycles all film and corrugated packaging.
``We are trying to reduce the amount of exterior packaging, by reducing the size of the packaging trays and the amount of film,'' said Thorpe. ``You are reducing your costs and you are reducing your impact on the environment.''