Meeting the challenges of Food and Beverage Production

The food and beverage sector faces a number of complex challenges relating to process water supply and wastewater disposal. Here, we consider some of the issues affecting the industry and the responses being developed to manage them.  

As with many industrial sector companies, food and beverage manufacturers are primarily concerned with ensuring compliance: maintaining a sustainable supply of water for the production process, and reducing the environmental impact and waste of effluent output. Whilst managing supply normally involves a relatively straightforward process of determining the required volume and quality of water, managing waste means navigating a number of more difficult problems.

The food and beverage industry is unusual in being characterised by frequent changes in product type and volume at a given site. Whilst most factories in other sectors will produce the same product, at the same rate, for a period of months, business needs in the food and beverages sector will often dictate changes in output. With these variations come attendant variations in wastewater characteristics and volume. Such frequent changes in wastewater characteristics create two distinct problems.

First, Environment Agency permits issued for wastewater discharge activities allow companies to discharge a specified volume and composition of water to the surrounding catchment. If product output volume suddenly changes, these volumes could be exceeded.

Second, changes to product type in the manufacturing line will alter the chemical composition of wastewater output. If the nature of the water to be treated is significantly changed, this could prevent existing treatment measures from effectively removing contaminants.

As well as these industry-specific challenges, the food and beverage sector also faces the same kinds of issues common across other industrial applications. With space on site at a premium, firms are loathed to turn over valuable production capacity to water treatment facilities. Likewise, the imperative to avoid disruption to the production process can dissuade site managers from implementing new treatment systems which might interrupt manufacturing output.

Despite these challenges, manufacturers can now make use of an increasing variety of solutions to reduce the impact of management difficulties, which can also present opportunities for reducing costs and reusing waste.

Digital services and the Internet of Things (IoT) can be one of the most valuable assets available to site managers for monitoring output levels and wastewater composition. In both cases, a real-time stream of information can help avoid unwanted infringement of output limits, and can be used to effectively warn users about changes to output composition which might compromise discharge cleanliness.

Case Study

An international beverage manufacturer that produces over 20,000 bottles and 36,000 cans per hour required a new process water and wastewater system. The system needed to treat incoming mains water to a level that was suitable for its process needs, meet local discharge standards without the need for month-to-month alterations and fit within a confined space.

Following an updated consultation, design and review process with the client, VWT UK recommended the PurBev® Reverse Osmosis (RO) plant in combination with a Filtraflo filter for treatment of process water. Similarly, an IDRAFLOT® dissolved air flotation system was chosen for wastewater treatment, in conjunction with an AnoxKaldnes™ moving bed biofilm reactor (MBBR).

Previously the client was within the discharge limits but was paying a higher rate due to the level of contaminants they were discharging. The new wastewater plant has resolved this issue and reduced the water discharge fee.

Prior to the specification, VWT UK’s Chemical Department had visited the site for a testing day. This included research on the cooling towers and boiler systems to find out the most suitable water treatment solution. After the assessment, the team recommended Hydrex™ 2112, Hydrex™ 7611 and Hydrex™ 7310 for the cooling towers, with Hydrex™ 1110, Hydrex™ 1568 and Hydrex™ 1258 recommended for the boilers.

To further minimise manual monitoring requirements, the client is considering installing VWT UK’s AQUAVISTA™ online monitoring system which will allow the client to remotely monitor operations even when away from the plant. There are only a small number of staff employed by the client, so this feature will allow the team to automatically capture important information, which would otherwise be missed.

Veolia Water Technologies UK (VWT UK) is at the forefront of innovation in each of these areas, offering a number of flexible and efficient bespoke solutions for food and beverage businesses. Whether companies would benefit most from AQUAVISTA™ digital monitoring, intelligent system design and custom phased commissioning plans to minimise impacts on production, or temporary mobile water treatment options to maintain uninterrupted output, VWT UK is able to provide the right solutions across a broad spectrum of technology and design services.

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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.