Nestlé Waters has a shiny, expensive new toy: a $17.4-million “smart factory” for bottling water in Castrocielo, Italy. It has been introduced amid great fanfare, with some calling it “a protocol for future bottling plants.”
The plant will have LED lights, heat recovery and retention systems, and all of the other fancy bells and whistles that come with an environmentally-friendly plant. As a result, CEO of Nestlé Waters Merco Settembri boasts that the plant will offer “best in class” energy savings.
The factory will also only deliver water bottle packages only in full truck loads (as if they don’t do this already?), and focus on only using local water sources. This way, according to Settembri, the smart factory can guarantee “a significant reduction in overall environmental impact.”
However, the environmental impact associated with a plant like this is still enormous, and phrases like “best in class” appeal to the consumer’s ideas of quality rather than having any quantifiable meaning (such phrases are used to sell cars for a reason). And Nestlé’s use of “local water sources” probably just means that they are bottling Castrocielo’s tap water, which may turn out to be a controversial practice. (Poland Spring encountered this very problem in small towns in Maine.)
This said, Nestlé already has a strong track record in water conservancy, reducing the amount of water needed for their products by 40 percent. Plus, this factory will save a lot of energy—another hot-button environmental issue.