Processing Water For The Good Of The Business And The Environment

Monday, November 27th, 2017

Water and wastewater processing is a crucial process in all food and beverage operations, and having a good system in place can benefit not only one’s business, but also the environment, says Michael Poonpipat, business development director, projects, Thailand, Veolia Water Technologies, in an interview with APFI.

As with all industries, the food and beverage industry produces a lot of waste, and one of the most common types of waste is wastewater, according to Michael Poonpipat, business development director, Projects, Thailand, Veolia Water Technologies.

“Water is a critical component in many aspects of the F&B manufacturing process: for industrial use, as a food ingredient, and as hot water for sanitary use. The used water eventually ends up as wastewater,” he informed.

And this wastewater can come in many forms. “For example: the output from frequent washing of clean-in-place (CIP) processing equipment, and from production discharge. Other forms of wastewater that are not commonly thought of include the output from process water treatment systems that filter water for use as ingredient water; blowdown from cooling towers; and from off-specification products that may require disposal,” Mr Poonpipat explained.


The Importance Of Good Water Processing

With all this wastewater, it is therefore important to ensure that the water is processed reliably and cost-effectively, meeting the highest quality standards that are demanded of food manufacturing operations.

“Good water processing solutions help manufacturers meet specific process water quality requirements to ensure consistent production and global uniformity in the taste of the product. For example, where water is a key ingredient, deterioration in water quality can severely affect the taste and thus the standard of the final product that reaches consumers. Maintaining good water quality in operations across multiple plans therefore helps to keep product taste consistent.

“Good water processing can also contribute to reducing operating costs—and in some instances even offset them. High quality process water ensures the longevity of processing equipment in terms of helping to slow down corrosion,” he said.


Common Ways To Process Water


Water processing generally entails the removal of contaminants and the control of particle and bacteria presence so as to ensure that the resultant water is safe for use. One common solution is raw water clarification. This process can utilise microsand, such as with Veolia’s Actiflo solution, which would act a ballast for flocculated matter and accelerate its settling, aiding in the removal of total suspended solids.

In the case of micropollutant removal, powered activated carbon can also be used to eliminate non-flocculable organic matter, pesticides and emerging micropollutants.


Another way to process water is through mechanical filtration methods, reverse osmosis, UV sterilisation, and activated carbon filters.

For wastewater processing, Mr Poonpipat offered: “Popular solutions include using a dissolved air floatation unit to remove fats, oil and grease from the wastewater. Another method is biological treatment such as anaerobic digestion, where, in the absence of oxygen, wastewater is processed to break down and remove chemical oxygen demand and biochemical oxygen demand.

“The resultant biogas, such as methane, can then be used back within the production process to fire a plant’s boilers, or it can be sold. Aerobic treatment on the other hand uses oxygen to break down organic substances and remove other pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus.”

Anaerobic treatment of wastewater offers many advantages including a more compact footprint compared to aerobic treatments, he said. Anaerobic solutions typically require less land and civil works, minimise the production of sludge and electricity usage, and produce valuable biogas which can be used to fuel a plant’s boiler.

That said, there are still plants that might prefer the use of aerobic treatments. Some available today include automated systems that reduce the manpower needed to operate a plant, allow for remote monitoring, and that offer sludge digestion—which allows the manufacturer to recover biogas, reduce sludge volume, and reduce the large out-of-pocket cost for sludge disposal. There are options available too to treat sludge such that they are converted into animal feed to further increase cost-effectiveness.


Looking Forward


Water and wastewater processing will always remain an essential for food and beverage manufacturers. One can only expect more manufacturers to be more aware of the need for water conservation and to adopt reuse technologies, ahead of the increasing prevalence of water scarcity issues.

Companies such as Veolia can help food and manufacturers plan and prepare for water risks such as flooding, drought and changes in emission regulations. They can also guide manufacturers to set achievable KPIs for efficient water usage, to reduce water footprint not only for the business’ profit, but also for the overall sustainability of our world’s water resources.

There are many compact solutions available today that cater to the increasingly space-limited factories. These options can help all manufacturers big and small save costs and space yet achieve good quality water and returns from such an investment.

Further, consumers today are increasingly leaning towards the consumption of clean label, natural and organic food ingredients. This trend and interest in where their food comes from has led to “consumers enquiring about the water footprint of F&B manufacturers, and may influence their ultimate purchasing decisions, such as choosing to only support businesses that are environmentally responsible,” according to Mr Poonpipat.

These said, there really isn’t any excuse for manufacturers to delay any longer in ensuring that their existing water and wastewater processing solutions give them only the best results.