Green giants in good spirits over bottle ENVIRONMENT

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The Independent Online
Scotch whisky has been drunk since time immemorial, but its bottles have lost weight. United Glass and United Distillers, makers of Johnnie Walker and Bell's, have jointly won a Queen's Award for environmental achievement, for bottles which weigh up to a quarter less than their predecessors.

Lightweight bottles have been used for beer for several years, but the bigger size and screw neck complicated their use for spirits. United Glass spent two years developing the bottles, finally putting them into commercial production in Alloa in Scotland. It has now launched a standard range of Scotch bottles to sell to the industry.

Bob Coakley, managing director of United Glass, said, "the new bottles saved 22 per cent energy in processing and 20 per cent in raw materials. Because more bottles can be carried - eight per cent on each load - there were also fewer deliveries. The glass packaging industry is in the front line of the environmental debate. We have made an investment of almost £10 million in the development and production of lightweight spirits containers, which demonstrates how seriously we take our responsibility to minimise the impact on the environment."

Additionally, BP Exploration has won an environmental award for the biggest onshore oil field in Europe, Wytch Farm in Dorset. Instead of drilling directly above the oilfield - the original plan was for a 30-acre artificial island in Poole Bay - BP now drills from a hidden four-acre site on land. The oil reservoir is a mile beneath the surface of Poole Bay and is reached by drilling at angles of more than 90 degrees.

The company also halved its capital expenditure and brought forward the first oil production by three years, besides placating groups such as the Dorset Wildlife Trust and English Nature.

Another industrial giant, ICI, received its first environmental award with a water-based paint system which cuts solvent emissions from car re-painting by up to 85 per cent. Aquabase is the first water-based refinish paint and ICI says it offers the first practicable way to drastically cut emissions of organic solvents from crash repair centres, which emit about 100,000 tonnes of solvents into the atmosphere every year.

An Exeter firm, Devon Valley Industries, also collected an environmental award for replacing heavy metal pigments by non-hazardous alternatives in making decorative laminate papers. As well as eliminating heavy metal contamination in landfill sites, the process also avoids potential contamination of rivers and water supplies by discharges in production.

Vortoil Separation Systems, of Gloucester, won the award for developing equipment which can process oily water. Its hydrocyclone spins at high rates and produces water which meets the environmental discharge requirements.