If you’re in the food and beverage industry, you’re paying to deal with your effluent. You might have an over-strength agreement with your municipality. You might have the water trucked off your premises and treated off-site. You might operate your own on-site wastewater treatment system. Or you may simply be paying fines (or crossing your fingers that you don’t get discovered). All of these options have costs associated with them. The good news is there are relatively simple ways to reduce them (and sleep better at night). Here are three.
1. Separate organics from your effluent
Food processing companies can pay as much as 10 times more to dispose of their organic waste through the sewer as through a solid waste system. If you’re having high strength wastewater pumped and trucked off your premises, you’re also paying unnecessarily high costs.
The trick is to separate the organics from the water, so that the water can be disposed of without a sewer surcharge or reused safely, likely as greywater, in your systems. As a side benefit, once the organics have been separated from the water, they can often be taken to a digester and used as an energy source or fertilizer.
The amount you will save by separating your organics from your effluent will more than pay for a contractor’s services to dewater your effluent.
2. Meter the water used by your sanitation crew
A considerable amount of wastewater is created in the cleaning of food processing areas, but until you install a water meter, you won’t know how much. This is an important cost because, while the water may cost only $1 a cubic metre, by the time you factor in the cost to heat it and the surcharge you’ll pay if you’re sending organics-rich wastewater into the sewer it could cost four or five times that amount.
Install the water meter, collect baseline data, then work with your sanitation crews to reduce the amount of water they use. Some water reduction strategies are based on behaviour change, for example using a shovel to pick up wasted food rather than washing it down the drain. Others are about equipment, for example using low-flow nozzles and automatic shut-off valves.
Track the reductions, reward your people for their efforts, and set new targets once you achieve your initial ones.
3. Install proper guarding to keep food off the floor
Food waste from your production processes will likely increase the BOD in your wastewater, increasing your surcharge if you discharge into a municipal sewer, your disposal costs if you pay a third party to pump and truck your wastewater, and your treatment costs if you treat your wastewater yourself. Proper design of your equipment and systems plays an important role in minimizing food waste. Look first at the guarding on your process line or conveyor systems. Is it preventing food from falling on the floor? If not, look into accessories that will keep food in its proper place.
In conclusion, there are many simple ways to decrease the cost of managing your effluent. We’ve focused on three—separating organics from your wastewater, metering the water used for sanitation and installing proper guarding on food transfer systems—but there are many others. Ask some big picture questions about where your water use and food waste is coming from, and you’ll find you can substantially reduce your sewer surcharges and costs to pump, truck and treat your wastewater. It’s a win for your company’s bottom line, and your company’s brand.