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Key water considerations for food industry SME's

How can we secure stable, high quality water supply?

How can we reduce our water usage?

How can we re-circulate some of our process water?

How can we reduce the key parameters in our outgoing wastewater?

How can we treat our wastewater, if we are not connected to the sewage network?

How can we fit all this within our existing process and facilities, without breaking the bank?

How do we know, which legislation and regulations apply?

Who can we trust to deliver a working solution?

How can we create cost savings in the long run?

These are some of the key questions we've received from our case companies, which are food industry SME's. Let's take a closer look.

Technical aspects

When it comes to outgoing wastewater, typical needs for food industry SME's include:

  • reducing the nutrient contents (N, P), especially nitrogen being problematic,

  • reducing BOD contents,

  • reducing suspended solids.

These needs are similar regardless of whether the facilities are connected to municipal sewage network or not. The level of reduction needed will of course vary depending on if it is pre-treatment before letting the water into the sewage network or if the water needs to be treated to a level where it can be let back into nature by the company itself.

Washing equipment, machinery and surfaces is typically a heavy water usage area for food industry companies. Some of the rinsing water is often perceived to be relatively clean. Companies are therefore keen to find out if it would be possible to capture and recirculate at least some of this water. This might also tie in together with wanting to find out if there are other possibilities to reduce water consumption in general within their activities.

For additional water supply besides the waterworks, some companies may want to explore options for having their own well, while others may be looking into utilising sea water.

Other aspects

A limiting factor for many SME's may be space, both within the factory walls and outside on the yard. Buildings and processes may also be of different eras within the same company, with some areas being relatively old and other areas more recently built.

Another important factor to consider is that SME's often don't have separate staff members focusing purely on sustainability issues. Instead, they often fall under the domain of the Quality Manager, Production Manager or even the CEO, who have a whole host of other issues to focus on, too. They might not have the time or the expertise to evaluate the merits of different water treatment solutions. They may feel that they are at the mercy of those selling the water treatment solutions, as everyone naturally claims their solutions will deliver the desired results.

Yet another factor to be considered is regulation. It may not always be crystal clear to food industry SME's what regulation they need to comply with when it comes to wastewater issues or who the relevant regulating authority is.

And finally, money is undoubtedly always an important factor. When it comes to food industry SME's, it is often the case that their budget for finding water treatment solutions is relatively limited. They are also keen to find solutions that might bring cost savings, at least in the longer run.


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