Water Sustainability in Food Processing: Tackling the Big 3—Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

By Ross Lund

We’ve all read the headlines: In many parts of the world, water is subject to peak demand, and record-long droughts are hitting close to home for many food growers and processors. It was highlighted again at the recent Milwaukee Water Summit, where California’s drought situation was called symbolic of the global groundwater crisis.

Drought or not, we know that water conservation has been a bottom line issue for food processors, and sustainability goals are further driving the need to implement innovative water conservation approaches.

Here at Hughes Equipment Company, our team of engineers is always looking for equipment and processing efficiency gains and ways to help processors keep up with business demands, such as those affecting water and wastewater issues. Food processors need solutions to help them stay ahead of shifting market pressure.

We recently released a white paper on the water issue, and, through our membership in The Water Council, we are supporting that forward-thinking organization’s efforts regarding fresh water. (The Water Council presents the annual Milwaukee Water Summit.)

The 3 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

To put it simply, if you have excess water or material going out, you have loss. Tightening water efficiency comes down to managing the three Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle. That includes a variety of approaches, some simple, some more complex, but all worthwhile. For example:

Reduce: Take advantage of water sensors and monitoring water use by installing flow meters, which easily indicate water overuse and can make a sizable difference in reducing water usage and associated costs. And to minimize your facility’s (BOD) wastewater treatment loading charges, determine if waste can be recovered and sold or recycled to alleviate flushing product and profits down the drain.

Reuse: This can be as simple as identifying opportunities to recirculate cooling water throughout your facility to something a bit more complex, such as supplementing raw material wash water supplies by harvesting storm water runoff from your wash plant’s roof and grounds.

Recycle: There’s a host of things you can do, but one big bang for your buck is auditing equipment efficiency. For example, mounting a flume washer over a pit or cyclone tank uses 800 gallons of water as compared to 15,000 gallons in a standard system. Because a cyclone tank allows heavy debris to settle on the bottom of the tank, this self-contained system flushes the debris into a small holding crate, reducing cleanup to a few minutes rather than hours.

These are just a few examples of what food processors can do to tackle reducing, reusing and recycling water. We’ll continue to share information on water sustainability trends and best practices. If you’d like to learn more about how our team can help protect your operation’s profitability, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line at hughes@hughesequipment.com.

Ross Lund is president of Hughes Equipment Company, which designs and manufactures a wide variety of equipment used by food processors throughout the world. The company is online at hughesequipment.com.

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