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Viscose Maker Birla Cellulose Applies ‘Stringent Norms’ to Slash Water Usage

Viscose manufacturer Birla Cellulose, a subsidiary of India’s Aditya Birla Group, announced last week that it plans to reduce its water intensity by 50 percent from a 2015 baseline by 2025.

The company will achieve this, it said, by applying new technologies based on the principles of reduce, reuse and recycle, including water-management best practices such as membrane processes that clean up and recycle wastewater. Already, Birla Cellulose says it has managed to reduce its water intensity by 30 percent from a 2015 baseline across multiple fiber-manufacturing sites, a move that has created “new benchmarks for water intensity in the global viscose industry.”

“Climate change and water scarcity are the two biggest concerns of the global community today and need to be addressed by concerted efforts,” Dilip Gaur, business director of pulp and fiber at the Aditya Birla Group, said in a statement. “A strong focus on reducing freshwater intake can result in freshwater being available for alternative uses.”

Because reducing freshwater intake translates to reduced wastewater discharge, cutting water intensity also creates a “large positive impact on the environment,” Gaur said. Birla Cellulose, he noted, is currently applying the “most stringent norms” across all its sites by “going beyond the applicable regulatory norms” and implementing European Union standards for wastewater discharge.

Birla Cellulose says its efforts align with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal No. 6, which calls for ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030.

Roughly 2.1 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water services, according to the United Nations, which notes that contaminated water and lack of basic sanitation undermine efforts to eradicate extreme poverty and disease in the world’s poorest communities.

A report by the Global Fashion Agenda and the Boston Consulting Group found that the fashion industry uses nearly 79 billion cubic meters of water per year, or enough to fill nearly 32 million Olympic-size swimming pools. This number will increase by 50 percent by 2030, researchers estimated.