Helping food and beverage businesses manage wastewater effectively

Food and beverage manufacturers face a number of challenges with regard to wastewater management, especially in light of tightening standards and updates to the Best Available Techniques (BAT) and BAT Reference (BREF) documents for the food, drink and milk (FDM) industry.

As with all businesses that produce wastewater as a by-product of their operations, food and beverage manufacturers must obtain consent to discharge this wastewater to the public sewer or water coarse and comply with the conditions of the permit. These conditions will be specific to the business and legally binding, meaning non-compliance can result in legal action by the water company.

The composition and volume of wastewater produced will vary significantly from one business to another within the food and beverage sector. Depending on the type of product being produced it could have high levels of biological oxygen demand (BOD) and chemical oxygen demand (COD) as well as high levels of nutrients and suspended and dissolved solids. For example, raw water from dairy processing is likely to contain significant organic material while the cooling water from distilleries has very little additional content. Also, the manufacture of new products or changes to the mix of products can cause the composition of the wastewater to change.

The challenge of managing wastewater has further increased by the tightening of the wastewater consents by many water companies to help them, in turn, meet the targets put in place by Ofwat.

Manufacturers must also be aware of updates to the standards set by the European Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Bureau. In December 2019, it published updated BAT and BREF documents for the food, drink and milk (FDM) industry. These ‘techniques’ are the best practice solutions for preventing or minimising the environmental impacts of a site’s operation. The BREF also contains BAT Associated Emission Levels (BAT AELs), standards for discharges from the installation to air and water that must be met. With the new version of the guidance published, manufacturers have until November 2023 to ensure compliance. However, the document runs to more than 800 pages and so interpreting how the requirements will impact a business is not simple. It is also important to ensure that there is sufficient time for any new measures to be designed and implemented before the deadline. Therefore, it is recommended that manufacturers begin working with a specialist water treatment solutions provider who can offer an assessment of what is required and propose the best possible solution.

There is now a wide and growing range of options for wastewater monitoring, management and treatment. Remote monitoring of water systems and the associated digital tools, such as our Hubgrade digital services offering, can help businesses to better understand and track their wastewater. This not only helps ensure compliance with the regulations and discharge permits but the data gathered can also allow optimisation of an existing plant to improve capacity and efficiency – in some cases negating the need for further capital investment.

Furthermore, it may be beneficial to look at how water can be managed more effectively by introducing recovery and reuse measures. Reusing and recycling wastewater can offer significant savings due to the cost of both mains water and discharging wastewater, as well as helping companies achieve environmental and sustainability credentials. While there has been some reluctance in the past due to negative perceptions about the safety of reusing water, an improved understanding has seen a growing number of businesses adopting these systems. It is important to remember that all mains water has been previously used and treated ready for reuse. A wide range of treatment technologies can be used to allow reuse of water on site including filtration, reverse osmosis (RO) and clarification. A specialist can provide guidance on the solution that is best suited to the requirements of the process and facility.

At Veolia Water Technologies UK (VWT UK), we can offer a range of water treatment technology solutions and design services to meet the current and future needs of food and beverage manufacturers. We are also able to offer mobile water treatment options to respond to a temporary need for additional capacity or to minimise the impact of installation or maintenance work.

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Daniel Parry

About the Author

Daniel Parry

Daniel spent the first 10 years of his career managing proposals for large EPC (Engineering Procurement & Construction) power projects. Daniel has been with Veolia Water Technologies for 7 years where he has managed the proposals for Industrial and Municipal projects. Daniel also now manages the sales team for Industrial Wastewater opportunities ensuring that Veolia Water Technologies work with each customer to design and deliver the most appropriate solution for their needs.