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Many food-processing plants, like dairies, use a large amount of water, so water reuse and waste-to-energy technologies can increase sustainability, providing energy and water for plant operations.

Food and beverage businesses can improve sustainability and public attitudes with waste-to-energy technologies

According to recent research, consumers now believe their lifestyle choices — especially those concerning what they eat and drink — are responsible not only for their own health but also for the health of the global ecosystem. Accordingly, consumers are looking for opportunities to vote with their shopping carts.

The 2019 study by market research company Ipsos and Tetra Pak, an environmentally conscious food processing and packaging company, has highlighted significant food and beverage (F&B) industry opportunities created by consumer environmental concerns.

Consumers on Environment and Health

The research has broken down consumer awareness of, attitudes toward, and engagement with environmental and health concerns into six strata, each associated with different beliefs, values, change drivers, and trusted information outlets, allowing for both targeted products and marketing. Moreover, among individuals, environmental concerns correlate with health concerns.

Although environmental and health concerns used to be thought of and messaged separately, their convergence presents the F&B industry with new marketing opportunities. Two-thirds of consumers now believe the environment is nearing a point of no return. They also feel personally responsible for it and the way it affects their own health. F&B brands, therefore, are in a unique position to connect the environment to the individual consumer via health concerns and meet the demand for responsible products.

Water Reuse and Recovery

In the past, improving a company’s environmental performance meant increasing costs, but now more companies are realizing that waste streams can in fact be valuable resources.

With water scarcity intensifying from climate change and increasing demand from growing populations, sourcing water for operations is becoming both more difficult and more expensive. Overuse of groundwater and surface water by water-intensive operations — like bottling companies or breweries — can become sticky local political issues that can damage important local support. The same is true of F&B companies that grow to the point that their discharges begin to degrade surface or groundwater quality.

Water Reuse and Waste-to-Energy

At first glance, the choice seems to be to grow while fighting environmentalists, or to cut production. But there are other choices, including water reuse and waste-to-energy technologies.

Many companies have lowered their total water costs by treating wastewater for reuse in-house. Fluence solutions for the food and beverage industry include general treatment of water that goes into products, and treating wastewater to convert it into process water that can be reused for nonpotable applications such as washing, boiler feed, and makeup water. Finally, treating water in-house before discharge creates independence from municipal facilities and fees, lower pipelining costs, and fewer headaches.

Anaerobic digestion for treatment of solid waste and for wastewater treatment opens up a world of opportunities by producing biogas that can be used to power plant operations. Water recycling and reuse technologies can even help a plant achieve zero liquid discharge (ZLD).

As consumer consciousness about the environment and health increases, more and more consumers are skeptical about the “green” claims of brands. Reuse and resource recovery operations are tangible and intrinsically impressive to consumers who know the difference between greening and greenwashing, and can cut production costs and increase quality.

Contact Fluence — a company that has been in the business of turning waste into resources for 30 years — to discuss how to make the most of your company’s waste streams.

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