Water recycling in food production and manufacturing

water recycling
in food production and manufacturing

Executive summary overview

In recent years, Australia’s agri-food industry has made significant progress in reducing its reliance on fresh water by adopting water-saving initiatives, improving efficiencies, and increasing water recycling. A number of technologies are now available for treating wastewater to obtain the required quality of water that is ‘fit for the purpose’ while being economically viable and conforming to the appropriate regulatory guidelines.

Tools and frameworks developed by this project, successfully demonstrated through case studies, are available for industry to assist with decision-making on wastewater treatment and water recycling options. The rise in the price of water during the last decade is one of the main drivers for water reuse and recycling.

Download the full executive summary

Objectives

  • Evaluate ‘whole-of-system’ opportunities to recover nutrient resources from wastewater streams in the meat and dairy sectors.
  • Develop strategies to overcome perceived consumer barriers to water recycling by identifying product attributes that align with consumers’ values and attitudes.
  • Deliver decision-making tools for industry to assess water recycling and irrigation options based on the value proposition and available technologies.
  • Identify opportunities to positively influence policies, regulations and incentives for water recycling by taking a systems approach to the supply chain.
  • Inform stakeholders in the food, dairy and meat industries on the benefits and risks of water recycling based on scientific evidence.

Outcomes

  • A framework for selecting technologies for wastewater treatment for recycling and irrigation.
  • A tool to evaluate the value proposition for different water treatment, recycling and irrigation options.
  • A framework for operating within appropriate regulatory guidelines.
  • Validation of tools and frameworks through case studies in the dairy, food and meat sectors.
  • Successful use of APSIM to predict the uptake of nutrients by crops and the sodicity of soil for treated dairy wastewater in irrigation.
  • Understanding consumer attitudes and emotions when consuming foods associated with recycled water.

Project Activities

The project included five sub-projects:

  • Developing a framework for selecting appropriate technologies for treating wastewater that is fit for purpose
  • Carrying out a study to understand the attitudes and emotions of consumers when consuming food associated with recycled water
  • Modelling nutrient accumulation and salt cycling in soil and nutrient uptake by crops when wastewater from dairy processing plants is used in irrigation using Agricultural Production Systems sIMulator (APSIM) software.
  • Developing a tool to evaluate the value proposition for different water recycling and irrigation scenarios
  • Evaluating regulatory requirements and providing guidelines related to water recycling and irrigation in the agri-food sector

Case Studies

Bega Cheese

The aim of this project was to study the impact on the sodicity in the soil and the nutrient uptake by crops in farmlands irrigated by recycled wastewater from the Bega plant. A discussion paper outlines the regulatory framework, identifies three technology options for treating the wastewater, and tested options using the value proposition tool.

Dairy Trial 2

This study evaluated the technical feasibility of treating its wastewater to potable quality. These trials demonstrated that a wastewater treatment system comprising phosphorus removal, a membrane bioreactor, reverse osmosis and a UV / chlorination disinfection system will successfully produce water of the required quality for a dairy manufacturing site to reuse and recycle water in their production facilities.

Kellogg

The objective was to evaluate the feasibility of recycling water for use in non-food manufacturing areas and for irrigating surrounding parklands. A technology selection framework was used to identify wastewater treatment options. The value proposition tool was used to estimate the net present value for different options. Regulatory requirements were addressed and guidelines for operations developed.

Meat Sector

Under the guidance of AMPC and MLA, a desktop study and survey of water consumption and recycling was conducted in Australian meat plants.

The study resulted in:

  • A report on the removal of fats, oil and grease from meat processing effluents
  • A position paper on the removal of salt and nutrients from meat processing effluents
  • A series of water recycling fact sheets for the meat industry.

Partners