Food and beverage production is characterized by having one of the highest water footprints. 70% of the world’s freshwater supplies are withdrawn by the agri-food sector. As a result, water management is a key issue of concern within the sector.
During food and beverage manufacturing, water is used as a processing element, as utility water for cooling and steam generation, for cleaning purposes, and as a component of the final product. A significant amount of the input water is obtained as highly polluted wastewater that requires intensive treatment before safe discharge.
The food and beverage industry includes numerous sub-sectors for manufacturing different types of products. Some of the most water-intensive sectors are soft drinks, brewing, meat production, and fruit and vegetable processing. The large variety of products and processes obviously results in different waste streams, although the most relevant and general feature is the high polluting potential due to the moderate to high levels of organic material, as indicated by high measurements of BOD and/or COD. F&B wastewater may also contain suspended solids, nutrients, salts, and residues from cleaning, pesticides, and solvents.
The wastewater treatment facility typically relies on the bioprocess for removing the organic matter and nutrients. For the different industries and products, both the pretreatment and the configuration of the biological process need to be adapted to the specific contaminants. As a reference, the wastewater from beverage production typically includes sugars and other soluble carbohydrates. On the contrary, poultry wastewater contains proteins meaning that nitrogen removal may be required. Finally, vegetable processing wastewater can contain a significant amount of suspended solids and also pesticide residues. This gives an indication of the broad range of scenarios that can be found in the food and beverage sector.
The tighter requirements for discharge to water bodies, the increasing discharge fees and the rising cost of fresh water makes the topic of water a mandatory discussion point in food and beverage industry. Moreover, environmental stewardship or brand reputation are nowadays the main drivers for the implementation of advanced wastewater treatment technologies. In this context, the food and beverage manufacturers continuously seek for increased efficiency and sustainability by implementing improved water management practices: the reduction of water consumption and wastewater generation, together with the optimization of energy consumption are the main goals, with a greater emphasis on water recycling – when possible – and energy recovery by means of waste-to-energy approaches.
Wastewater treatment plants at food and beverage manufacturing facilities are challenged by influent variability. These are caused by load and hydraulic shocks, temperature changes, changes in manufacturing operations, spills, wash water discharges and limited equalization capacity.
Effectively treating this wastewater is often difficult, and in some cases, the conventional activated sludge systems are hampered by the large and sudden variations. This is why membrane-based technologies are getting more and more common in the food and beverage industry as long as they entail important benefits:
Berghof tubular UF membranes are a proven technology for F&B wastewater treatment. Both aerobic and anaerobic MBRs are in operation worldwide in almost all the F&B sub-sectors: distilleries, breweries, meet processing, slaughterhouses, vegetable processing, sugar industry, confectionery, malt production, soft drinks or potato starch are some examples of running systems with many years of successful, robust and reliable performance.
Berghof products based on tubular UF cover most of the new demands and trends in F&B wastewater management:
Made in a state-of-the art LEAN-production facility, with highly-trained production personnel and materials of the highest quality.
With 50 years of experience and more than 2.000 projects worldwide, Berghof Membranes is the leading manufacturer of high quality tubular ultrafiltration membranes.
50 years of experience and more than 2.000 project references across the globe.
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