We are aware of Valio’s environmental impacts and we are actively reducing them. Our climate programme is targeting a carbon-neutral milk chain by 2035. We are investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency, as well as in resource efficiency of the raw materials and consumables used.
Our activities are guided by Valio’s environmental policy and our environmental management system, which has ISO 14001 certification covering the Finnish and Estonian operations.
Noise and air emissions
We have identified the significant noise sources at our production plants. Where needed, the plants have been outfitted with noise reduction equipment in order to meet the requirements of the environmental permits. If there are targets in the immediate vicinity of the plant that could be disturbed, such as residential areas, the plant’s noise situation is reviewed regularly. A noise impact assessment is also included in the planning of new investments; when necessary, noise modeling is done to support the planning.
Our powder dryer is equipped with dust separation equipment that meets the requirements of the EU’s best available technology; the equipment performance is monitored regularly in accordance with the terms of the environmental permit.
A dairy uses a lot of water for washing to ensure hygiene and product safety. In municipalities where Valio is a significant user of domestic water, there are contractual limits on Valio’s water use so that our operations don’t adversely impact the water service.
Finland has abundant fresh water resources on average, but the local availability of domestic water for use may not be unlimited. Our Finnish sites buy their water mainly from municipal water utilities, two of our sites have their own wells, and one has its own well and a surface water treatment plant. Our Estonian sites have their own wells.
We reduce our water consumption at production plants by using a clean-in-place system for process equipment and by enhancing the efficiency of water use. Today the use of recycled water is significant, but the safe use of recycled water requires continuous monitoring in terms of hygiene and product quality.
In some plants, we also use surface water for the cooling of processes, and the water is returned back to the water system. Heat exchangers that don’t allow the product to mix with lake water are used for heat transfer.
We monitor our water consumption, we communicate regularly with our water suppliers, and we respond openly to customer inquiries regarding water consumption.
Valio’s sites in Finland are connected to municipal sewer networks and their wastewater is discharged to municipal wastewater treatment plants. Industrial wastewater agreements specifying the maximum load values for different parameters have been made with the water utilities. These limit values have been defined on the basis of our load history and the plant’s sizing data, and the limits are also factored into the environmental permits of the sites. The Estonian production plants have their own wastewater treatment plants.
We aim to reduce wastewater volumes by increasing the reuse of water in applications where the use of recycled water does not add to the food safety risk. Especially in small communities, Valio’s wastewater load at the treatment plant is significant in proportion to the total load of the locality. High water consumption and the load of product residues in wastewater make the wastewater of dairies a significant environmental risk, if not controlled. We have precise and continuous processes in place to control it.
Material efficiency and waste management
Our goal is to use raw materials and consumables in a resource-efficient way. Our waste management aims to implement the principle of priority, i.e. to divert as much material as possible for reuse and material recycling. Site-specific sorting instructions are in place for hazardous and non-hazardous waste management practices. Waste management at the sites in Finland and Estonia are also monitored by environmental authorities. We monitor the accumulation of waste volumes through a data system that collects data from different waste management operators by site and by type of waste.
In Finland and Estonia, by-products from production, defective batches of fresh products and products returned from stores are processed in accordance with regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on by-products. The primary use is animal feed and the secondary use is biogas production.
Companies that sell packaged products in Finland and have a turnover of at least one million euros are legally required to ensure that the packaging waste recycling obligations are met. Through its agreement with Rinki Oy, Valio has, in accordance with the waste legislation, transferred the producer responsibilities for its packaging in Finland to producer organisations that recycle different materials. We are a partner in plastics and board producer organisations, and we are also committed to being involved in the restructuring of the recycling of packaging materials as a consequence of changes in Finnish waste legislation.
Use of chemicals
We use chemicals in the washing of production equipment as well as in whey refining processes. The environmental impacts from the acids and bases used in washing and powder plant production are related to wastewater. In a normal situation, the acids and bases neutralise each other in a natural process, or the wastewater is neutralised before
the cleaning process. In exceptional situations, wastewater that is too acidic or alkaline may disrupt the treatment plant’s operation.
Ammonia is used as a coolant in the cold storage facilities at Valio’s production plants. Ammonia is toxic to humans and hazardous to aquatic life, but is commonly used in large cold storage facilities. We have rigorous processes to ensure the safety of our cold storage facilities, and when renewing refrigeration equipment we prefer solutions that require less ammonia.
The storage volumes of hazardous chemicals at Valio’s five production plants in Finland require the preparation of an operating principle document in line with the Act of the Safe Handling and Storage of Dangerous Chemicals and Explosives. The sites’ statutory notices on safety measures and procedures to follow in the event of an accident are available by request.