No one would have believed in the last months of 2019 that Veolia would start new recycling and energy contracts with Coca-Cola FEMSA Colombia in 2020 during a lockdown caused by a global pandemic. But that is exactly what happened. In Colombia, the government implemented very strict restrictions in March and did not lift the lockdown until September 1.
“We began operations on April 1 to provide services nationwide to Coca-Cola FEMSA in the midst of an adverse environment,” says Veolia in Colombia’s Chief Executive Officer, Oscar Garcia. “Covid-19 imposed a great challenge for us that we did not foresee. We began operations in a very complex and adverse landscape, where we had to hire 78 employees amidst mobility and availability difficulties. But thanks to the right definition and identification of profiles, biosafety measures (including PCR testing), and plans to guarantee continuity defined by Veolia, we were able to carry out operations that meet the high standards and demands of the food and beverage sector.”
When Veolia in Colombia started bidding for the contract 15 months before it was due to begin, Coca-Cola FEMSA wanted a total waste management service that would serve its seven bottling plants and 19 distribution centers across Colombia.
After winning a commercial bidding contract based on its technical expertise, value for money and alignment with Coca-Cola FEMSA’s goals, Veolia planned to introduce a solution where all the materials generated during the production process in the bottling plant, such as paper, wood, glass and steel, would be transformed into new elements, such as toilet paper, wooden pallets, glass windows and structural steel. It would all be traceable and recycled locally as much as possible, while being competitively priced. Veolia would also deal with any hazardous waste such as industrial chemicals and containers from the manufacturing sites.
Trigeneration from a single source
Plans were also being developed — and are continuing despite Covid restrictions — for an energy self-sufficiency project in the production process at Coca-Cola FEMSA’s Barranquilla plant, as part of a contract signed in 2019. This involves the trigeneration of electrical energy, process steam and cold water from a single fuel source, in this case natural gas. The electrical energy will be produced by two 1475-kw generators. With the exhaust gases from the generators, water will be preheated to produce steam through an industrial boiler. The cooling water from the radiators will be used for chilling purposes via an absorption chiller.
Covid-19 rapid response
Flawlessly implementing the service was always Veolia in Colombia’s goal. During normal times, this would require Veolia’s expertise in ensuring there was no disruption to the client, but with Covid-19, this process required additional flexibility, a rapid response and resourcefulness from the Veolia team.
“Without a doubt, the situation resulting from the pandemic brought enormous challenges for everyone,” says Coca-Cola FEMSA Colombia Supply Manager, Camilo Rodriguez.
“For Coca-Cola FEMSA, it was key that Veolia understood our needs and could adapt its operation and business model to the new reality we are living. The alignment and control of all the materials we generate has been very important.”
Despite the situation, Veolia met the recycling contract targets required by Coca-Cola FEMSA Colombia without disruption to its business.
“Veolia is a strategic partner that understands the dynamism of this market and is able — through its experience and measurement tools — to deliver an impeccable waste management service,” adds Camilo Rodriguez. “One of the key points was how Veolia adapted to the pandemic. It was agile to start operations and make a connection in the middle of a difficult situation.”
For Veolia, implementing this new contract during the Covid-19 lockdown has been a learning experience.
Oscar Garcia explains: “Veolia in Colombia sought to respond to the crisis quickly based on two principles: maintaining flawless operations for our customers and protecting the health and safety of our employees with all the necessary biosecurity measures. To this end, we learned to make quicker decisions by empowering our staff and seeking to quickly understand changes in the market. In the case of Coca-Cola FEMSA, its consumers’ consumption patterns changed in such a way that, for example, the consumption of water and other products in family-sized containers increased, which forced us to make rapid changes to the collection center processes. In some cases, prices had to be renegotiated for the sale of materials. We quickly adapted our operating processes in response to the customer’s request.”
Key figures for the Veolia Colombia contract with Coca-Cola FEMSA
7 Coca-Cola FEMSA bottling plants and 19 Coca-Cola FEMSA distribution centers in Colombia
78 Veolia employees embedded in these Coca-Cola FEMSA facilities
More than 1,000 metric tons of material - including glass, paper, metal and wood - transformed from April to August 2020