9 december 2016
Zero H2O = added value for dairy plant
As part of its global commitment to preserve water resources, Nestlé turned to Veolia Water Technologies to develop a solution to reduce water consumption at its Lagos de Moreno plant in Mexico. The country’s population growth in recent decades has put increasing stress on groundwater resources. The state of Jalisco, where the plant is located, is one of the areas where the water scarcity problem is particularly acute.
The Lagos de Moreno plant is comprised of three units that produce ice cream, cereals and powdered milk for infant formula and requires 1.6 million liters of water per day, equivalent to the daily water consumption of 6,400 people.
“Nestlé is focused on creating a positive environmental impact,” says Nestlé engineer Nuria Navarrete. “We have set a target to reduce water usage per ton of finished product by 25% as part of our commitment to conserve water resources. We asked Veolia to provide a solution that would enable us to recover water from our process in order to avoid using deep well water in a high hydrological stress region of Mexico.”
The zero solutions solution
In response, Veolia added new technologies to treat the effluent from Nestlé’s wastewater treatment plant so that it could be reused for non-food production applications such as cooling, cleaning and industrial uses. The effluent is composed of condensate recovered from the evaporation of dairy products, or “cow water,” as well as discharges from “clean in place” sanitization of processing equipment.
A polishing system featuring Veolia’s Aquantis membrane bioreactor treats the effluent to produce a filtrate virtually free of solids. A further reverse osmosis treatment step retains dissolved solids and salts to drinkingwater quality levels. A final step involves capturing and reusing residual wastewater in cooling towers and other services within the factory, reducing the factory’s water withdrawal to zero. The project, called "Cero Agua" (zero water) by Nestlé, enables the treated water to be reused for non-food production applications, eliminating the plant’s need for external water resources.
“The Veolia-supplied water recycling technology purifies water in a tertiary treatment of our wastewater treatment plant,” says Nuria Navarrete. “The water quality allows us to use it in services that do not have direct contact with the product, such as cooling towers, patio washing stations, fountains and lavatories. By developing this Cero Agua project as well as other initiatives, we have reduced our 2015 water usage in Mexico by 78% compared to 2010.”
Nestlé’s success in implementing zerowater dairy production in Mexico offers hope for improved stewardship of a fragile natural resource. The project has contributed to Nestlé’s success in reducing water consumption globally by one third during the past 10 years, even while global production has increased.
Nestlé’s experience with the Cero Agua project provides valuable insights for industrial water conservation strategies according to Nuria Navarrete. “Including a recycling tertiary treatment in wastewater treatment plants today has become a viable solution for many industries to increase their profit and diminish their ecological footprint. Technology costs are now more competitive and chemicals for treatment and spare parts are also available in more sites with shorter delivery times.”
For Nestlé, the Jalisco Cero Agua project is one of more than 370 initiatives the company is undertaking in its factories around the world that are helping to conserve water. A world-first for the dairy products industry, the zero-water technology is now being rolled out at other Nestlé plants worldwide, starting with dairy factories in water-stressed
areas of South Africa, Pakistan, India and China.
In 2015, Nestlé's Cero Agua project won the Corporate Water Stewardship award at the 2015 Global Water Awards, held during the Global Water Summit in Athens. “Twelve years ago, we were told that this couldn’t be done, due to cost implications, water quality issues and the technical complexity involved,” said Jim Knill, Nestlé’s head of dairy operations. “But we’ve shown that the technology works – now we want to apply it elsewhere.”