Reducing wastewater and increasing waste recycling in the food industry

Tuesday, 03 March, 2015

In the manufacturing of foodstuffs, huge amounts of non-edible waste occur, such as the peels of citrus fruit and potatoes, or blood from the meat industry. Their disposal as waste or jointly with the wastewater as well as the hygienic cleaning of equipment lead to an enormous volume of wastewater. Fraunhofer UMSICHT is jointly working with an international working group in the BioSuck project, which is redesigning waste management in the foodstuffs industry.

By suctioning off the waste by means of vacuum technology, less wastewater is incurred, which reduces the disposal costs. At the same time, the waste that was transported hygienically and concentrated via the vacuum pipes can be used for bioenergy purposes or recycled.

In the project, a system and guidelines for decision-makers from the foodstuffs industry are being developed which provide information on when and where the installation of vacuum pipes for waste collection would be advisable.

Increasing sustainability, saving money

Quality is of particular importance in the foodstuffs industry. These days, consumers not only demand an impeccable product but also responsible manufacturing and a conscientious handling of natural resources. Fraunhofer UMSICHT is working together with four project partners from Germany and internationally on optimising waste management in the foodstuffs industry.

In addition to water, costs for wastewater disposal can also be saved through the installation of vacuum lines for waste transport - from 50 to 80% (depending on the sector of industry).

In waste collection by means of negative pressure, foodstuffs residues reach a collection site hygienically and quickly via a pipe system that is in compliance with the requirements of the foodstuffs industry. Residual waste can be used via incineration, converted to biogas or bioethanol in fermentation plants, or valorised into a lignite coal-like product by means of hydro-thermal carbonisation (HTC).

Furthermore, it is possible to feed the nutrients of concentrated organic wastes directly back into the industry or to use them as source material for nutrient-rich fertiliser instead.

The thin vacuum lines can be installed in a space-saving way on the ceiling; they prevent odour nuisance and can be adjusted to changes in the production process without major effort. The system is also closed off to vermin and rodents, which represents another significant advantage, particularly within the foodstuffs industry.

Support system for decision-makers in the foodstuffs industry

The BioSuck project also strives to support customers with respect to sustainability. For this, the project team is developing guidelines and a system that supports decision-makers from the foodstuffs industry in strategic decisions and planning with respect to resource management.

In addition to data from literature, the waste streams of typical foodstuffs industries (beverages, dairy products, meat, fish, etc) are inspected for nutrients by means of spectral analysis for the database of the system. Additionally, practice-focused case studies are integrated into the decision support system. For this, Fraunhofer UMSICHT is designing a test pilot system for waste concentration by means of vacuum technology that will simulate the practical application on a small scale.

The database will indicate exactly where waste is incurred, how it can be best collected and what further utilisation could be suitable. There are further plans for a sustainability analysis of the technologies and processes used in the form of a life-cycle analysis as well as an assessment of the environmental impacts. Based on this, the database will point out sustainable opportunities for improvement.

The BioSuck project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) until the end of August 2016. Fraunhofer UMSICHT is the coordinator of this project. Scientific partners are the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and the Institute for Ecology of Industrial Areas (IETU) under the auspices of the Polish Ministry of the Environment. The industry is represented by IWR Ingenieurbüro für Wasserwirtschaft und Ressourcenmanagement GmbH (engineering office for water management and resource management) and Bilfinger Water Technologies GmbH.


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