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SUVA, Fiji Islands (September 9-23, 2002 – USP Beat)---Industries take what they need from raw materials and leave the rest as waste, but the extracted matter is small compared to what is disregarded, according to Mrs. Suliana Siwatibau, facilitator of the panel discussion on ‘The Waste Pay-Off,’ held recently at the University of the South Pacific (USP), Laucala Campus, Suva, Fiji.

"When the industries that served the world were small, the impact of the waste produced was not very obvious. It was more or less restricted to the industrialized areas. However, as industrialization expanded and became a much more dominant part of our economic activities, the impact of wastes on our environment has become of increasing concern world wide," she said.

Mrs. Siwatibau is the Regional Project Coordinator for the Governance Project at the Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific International. She made her comments at the second lecture of the 2002 Parkinson Memorial Lecture Series.

"During the 1990s and up to now, a growing number of businesses have discovered that if they follow the way of nature in the design and conduct of their business, there are still great profits to be made, but in ways that enhance rather than endanger life as we know it on our planet," Mrs. Siwatibau said. "The practices promoted by these evolutionary corporations, as they have been called, have been labeled eco-efficiency, and dematerialization with a new guiding vision that includes a vision of zero waste."

Fellow panelist, Dr. Sander Kroes, Planning and Design Engineer with the Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) said while it was very rare for something to be of absolutely no use, it usually required some search efforts to find an appropriate customer or technology. He said to make wastes commercially useful, there must be a ‘pay-off.’

"In the production of sugar, only 11 percent of the raw material (cane), is converted to the final product. The remaining 89 percent are by-products. According to our definition of waste being ‘profitably usable by-products’ however, sugar factory by-products should not be considered waste," Dr. Kroes said.

By-product mill mud is instead returned to cane fields as nutrients to the soil, although some could also be used commercially to produce compost. A second by-product, molasses, could be considered as a product given the global demand for molasses, he said. About 59 percent of the by-product is water, removed from cane juice as vapor. Once condensed to water again, it is reused in the factory to supply the boilers, macerate the ‘bagasse’ within the crushing station, in the mud filters, as vacuum pan wash and for general factory cleaning.

About 25 percent of the by-product is ‘bagasse,’ which Dr. Kroes described as having the most potential for commercial value adding.

"In Fiji, excess ‘bagasse’ is used to create extra electrical power to supplement the Fiji Electricity Authority (FEA) grid. In fact, for much of the crushing season, the mill at Labasa supplies enough electrical power to meet the entire demand of Vanua Levu," he said.

Dr. Kroes said generating electrical power, in addition to another product such as sugar, was commonly referred to as ‘co-generation’ and ‘green power.’

This was because the plant material, ‘bagasse’ from sugar cane, was a renewable energy source with a net neutral effect on green house gas emissions.

Other international uses for ‘bagasse’ include the production of fiberboard, garden bedding and agricultural mulch, cattle roughage and bedding, paper, chemicals, ethanol, plastics, and fuel through glassification.

Fellow panelist, Mr. Michael Rynne, Chief Executive Officer of Basic Industries Limited and Fiji Industries Limited, likened sustainable development to corporate social responsibility, which incorporated accountability, transparency, engagement with stakeholders, good governance, fair treatment of employees, environmental impact, and the impact on local communities and businesses.

He said a business organization such as his believed in having corporate social responsibility because it was profitable. It also provided his company with competitive advantages in terms of reduced costs, the ability to attract and retain good customers, setting industry standards; developing trust among the community and their employees, shareholders and stakeholders.

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