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World: Food factories can turn wastewater into a valuable resource, Veolia tells FNI

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Capital expenditure in the water technology market is set to rise to US$6.0 billion over the next seven years, according to a report by Global Water intelligence.

“Despite being highly fragmented, the food and beverage (F&B) industry is still one of the top three industrial water markets” says Lola Arowoshola, the report’s chief author.

The report finds breweries, distilleries, dairy manufacturers and the sugar industry as the most water intensive and they generate highly loaded wastewater streams.

It adds that the F&B industry is now an important growth market for water technology companies because the increase in:

1) Global water demand, against fixed supply, as is the awareness of the need for adequate wastewater treatment.

2) The awareness of corporate risk for F&B companies; as paying attention to operational and environmental issues is vital to protect their brand reputation

3) The demand for F&B brands, so does demand for water technologies to provide safe and dependable water supplies

4) Value provided by water technologies, which allow water stewardship to go hand in hand with profitability.

Energy recovery, water efficiency and nutrient recovery ensure that investment will benefit the bottom line

The report predicts that these drivers will increase capital expenditure on water technology from US$3.3 billion in 2011 to US$6.0 billion in 2020, representing a compound annual growth rate of 6.7%.

It shows that European and North American markets will be more sluggish, but emerging markets including China, India and Brazil will grow at double digit rates.

Laurent Panzani, global director, food, beverage and biofuels markets, innovation and markets, Veolia, shares with Food News International how F&B factories can achieve zero wastewater discharge into the environment and recover wastewater for industrial use.

FNI: How can operators treat wastewater before discharging it out of the factory safely and within local regulations?

Panzani: Wastewater generated by food manufacturers is typically nontoxic and biodegradable, but can vary in composition and will require treatment before it can be disposed to the municipal plant.

For instance, the effluent from a brewery would be very different from the effluent discharged from a slaughterhouse.

Depending on the operator’s needs, a wastewater treatment plant equipped with the right treatment solutions is used to remove suspended solids, extract oil and fats, treat organic pollutants, separate sludge from wastewater, and even produce valuable resources from this effluent, and recycled water.

FNI: What is needed to recover wastewater for use in the factory?

Panzani: Depending on the type of effluent generated and under the local legislation that companies operate in, there are different methods that companies can use to clean their wastewater.

These methods can vary from basic treatments to complex and integrated water solutions.

There is a wide range of solutions available on the market, including water clarification, aerobic and anaerobic treatments that produce biogas as a source of energy.

There are also tertiary treatments for advanced purification and resources recovery of phosphorus, nitrogen, bioplastics and high value molecules.

Additionally, there are even specific water treatments that aim towards zero liquid discharge (ZLD), where virtually all of the wastewater is treated and recycled.

Companies can then use this recovered water for basic cleaning purposes including washing of floors and trucks, for utilities such as cooling towers and boilers, for advanced cleaning (cleaning in place), and even as a source of irrigation.

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FNI: How is zero wastewater possible in a food factory?

Panzani: The availability of ZLD technology enables manufacturers to achieve zero wastewater discharge, even in water-intensive food manufacturing facilities.

ZLD systems produce a high quality distillate that can then be recycled.

As a result, wastewater can be turned into a resource through recovery.

This is particularly important in places where water is very scarce and/or very expensive.

Based on our experience, the “hard work” is in raising awareness for water consumption, and in encouraging companies to minimize water output.

Of course, such treatments require advanced technologies that could be costly, but it is a fair exchange for water access or for companies to raise their reputation.

At the recently-concluded ProPak Asia 2014 exhibition, Veolia showcased three of its wastewater treatment solutions for the F&B industry – Biobed Advanced Technology, a patented anaerobic wastewater reactor; AnoxKaldnes Moving Bed Biofilm Reactor or MBBR; and Actiflo, a high-speed clarifier.

These solutions allow food manufacturers to treat, recover, and recycle wastewater for other uses, making zero wastewater a real possibility in a food factory.

FNI: How can wastewater be a valuable resource in a food factory?

Panzani: We believe that each drop of water can be fully optimized to maximize water potential.

Food manufacturers should consider using treated wastewater for utility purposes. While treated process wastewater cannot be used as a food ingredient or in direct food contact situations, it can instead be suitable for non-food contact environments.

In some cases, companies who reuse wastewater find that they actually receive positive return on investments ratios, and may even achieve added value when extra resources are produced.