11 July 2016
By Tetra Pak Editorial Team


It’s no surprise that perhaps one of the most important ingredients in the food and beverage industry is water. Because it is such a precious resource in everything from product processing to facility operations, many in the food and beverage industry are finding new ways to wring maximum value and efficiency from every drop.
 
Amid rising prices and growing water scarcity, food manufacturers around the world are finding ways to increase their system-wide water efficiencies through recycling programs and other initiatives.
 
Many companies have set ambitious goals for water replenishment. Coca-Cola, for example, is working to improve its water efficiency by 25 percent by the year 2020. Unilever, meanwhile, has committed to cutting the water its new factories consume by half between 2008 and 2020.
 
Here are some specific water conservation practices to help companies better manage water resources and meet water recovery goals.
 
Water filtration
Water filtering stations not only decrease consumption of power and water, but also reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The stations remove lubrication, residues, and other contaminants, and then circulate clean water back into the processing system.
 
Because they reduce the need for maintenance of processing machinery, water filtering systems actually help lower operational costs and improve environmental performance.
 
The resulting water efficiency can be substantial. Water filtering stations helped one dairy producer in Europe reduce the quantity of water used in filling machine operations by 95 percent, saving more than 5.8 million gallons of water per year.
 
White water recovery
Throughout the industry every year, 1.7 million gallons of so-called “white water” is wasted, which amounts to thousands of dollars down the drain – and approximately two and half Olympic-size swimming pools.
 
White water – the combination of milk and water usually flushed away during dairy production – doesn’t have to be lost, however. With whey filtration systems, manufacturers can separate excess water from whey while retaining all of the dissolved salts, lactose, acids, proteins, fats and bacteria. 
 
The water is recirculated, and the recovered whey can be repurposed and used in products such as yogurt, ice cream, cheese, and other dairy products. Less product wasted means significantly more money saved.

Boosting efficiency
When it comes to using water more efficiently, there are new services and equipment that can help customers improve the performance of their production operations.
 
The electron beam sterilization system, for example, is a new innovation in the world of carton packaging. The replacement of hydrogen peroxide in packaging material sterilization significantly improves environmental performance; making water recycling easier, lowering energy consumption and cutting waste.  
When it comes to optimizing production, environmental benchmarking is a helpful service for many businesses. Through environmental benchmarking, audits can be run on a company’s entire plant – including processing and packaging lines – to assess water efficiency, waste water treatment, energy efficiency, product yield and waste, and carbon footprint. Based on this information, strategies can be put into place to help businesses lower carbon footprints while reducing operational costs.
 
Moving forward
As companies look for new opportunities to improve their performance, gaining a better understanding of the true cost of water can be a huge opportunity.  
 
Because water is both an ethical and economical concern, understanding and improving the ways it can be more efficiently used is essential to our shared environmental future.
 
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