Water usage is featuring more and more in a dairy company’s green credentials. A recent Envirowise water benchmarking study in conjunction with Dairy UK has found that three of Robert Wiseman’s dairy sites had the lowest ratios for water/milk in the UK dairy industry. Improvements since 2004 have enabled Wiseman to save a total of 164 million litres of water by making the process more efficient. All wastewater at its Bridgwater plant in the UK is collected and processed through an effluent treatment plant and used for vehicle washing and irrigation of a local cricket pitch.
Arla Foods in Denmark had been facing high and increasing discharge costs for wastewater from its local municipality. The dairy company investigated several wastewater treatment technologies in order to try to reduce discharge costs at its milk processing plant in Hobro Mejeri. The Grundfos BioBooster PBR technology was the one that met their requirements for cost reductions, space savings and environmental soundness.
By cleaning the water in-house, Arla saved just under DKK 2m. The project has led to an increased awareness within the dairy, with personnel now more focused on reducing spillage during production. This has led to a spillage reduction of about 400-1,000 litres a day.
But the BioBooster does far more than just purify wastewater. The sludge produced is collected and sent away to be used in biogas production. “Our future goal is to be able to use it ourselves,” says Arla Foods QEHS manager, Torben Slots. The dairy is collaborating with Grundfos to turn the sludge into biodiesel. “In this way, we can turn our own wastewater into electricity that we can use to run our machines, or even into environmentally friendly fuel for our heavy goods vehicles.”
Thise Mejeri is Denmark’s largest organic dairy company, renowned for its high ethical standards and environmentally friendly thinking. It too has turned to the BioBooster. It used a lagoon system for wastewater treatment, but these were reaching their capacity limit. Grundfos BioBooster incorporated and enhanced Thise Mejeri’s existing wastewater treatment set-up and provided the extra treatment capacity needed.
The solution is based on two components: the PBR (pressurised biofilm reactor) used for pre-treatment of the wastewater before it’s drained to the lagoons, and the MBR (membrane biological reactor) used for full treatment of partial streams of the wastewater, and which allows for direct discharge to receiving waters and water reuse at a later stage.
For another organic dairy, Yeo Valley Organic in the UK, being organic means more than producing chemical-free products for consumers – it’s also about being as ethically sound as possible. This includes sourcing all milk for its yogurts locally from about 100 organic farms, resulting in a 50% reduction in its manufacturing and transport operations over the last two years.
The company also buys green electricity, has special double-decker trailers to halve the number of inter-site lorry journeys, and is growing miscanthus grass to be burned in a new bio-boiler that will replace its traditional oil-fired heating system in offices and farm buildings. It has a number of eco-domes that grow a range of organic vegetables served in the company’s staff restaurant.
Yeo Valley Organic marketing director, Ben Cull, says: “For such a significant organic player, Yeo Valley Organic has a very gentle impact on the environment. By managing its farms organically, the company puts a strong emphasis on caring for the land. It can see the benefits that farming organically can bring, and is dedicated to that cause.”
Cull continues: “However, above and beyond its organic practices, the company is also hugely committed to positive environmental management. Despite its size, Yeo Valley has never lost sight of its obligation to look after the environment. Because it runs its own farms, it’s constantly aware of the changing climate and the need to maintain the natural balance of input vs output, and to care for the land and environment from which it takes.”
In the US, the dairy industry has unveiled a major initiative to build business value and meet the growing consumer demand for environmentally friendly products by committing to a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by the year 2020 – equivalent to taking more than 1.25 million passenger cars off the road every year.
The announcement was made by the Innovation Centre for US Dairy – an organisation that brings together leaders from across the dairy value chain, including producer organisations, dairy cooperatives, processors and manufacturers such as Hilmar Cheese, Leprino Foods, Dairylea Cooperative, Anderson Erickson Dairy, Land O’Lakes and Dairy Farmers of America. The industry-wide effort launches with a focus on the fluid milk value chain – from farm to table – and includes a series of projects that will reduce energy use, increase efficiency and help the industry tap into new sources of income.
“Consumers increasingly demand nutritious dairy products that are produced, packaged and distributed in an environmentally sustainable way, and the US dairy industry intends to meet their needs proactively,” said Dairy Management Inc CEO, Thomas P Gallagher, who is also CEO of the Innovation Centre.
The initiative includes 12 project plans offering a range of solutions for operations large and small across all industry segments. These projects alone have the potential to create a conservatively estimated $238m in business value, and reduce GHG emissions by 3.2 million tonnes – a reduction equal to approximately 4.5 billion kWh of electricity.
Dairy has come under much scrutiny recently as environmentalists, animal rights activists and the anti-dairy lobby has tried to lay increased blame for greenhouse gas emissions at the feet of dairy farming. A lot of efforts are being made to counter these claims.
In the US, a Wisconsin family dairy farm lets nothing go to waste, as their Holstein cows help produce clean energy. The Crave Brothers Dairy Farm and its cheese-making enterprise, Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese, has a sophisticated, computer-controlled anaerobic digestion system that generates electricity from the manure produced by their 750 Holsteins. There’s enough power to run the Wisconsin farm and cheese plant and power up to 120 homes.
The anaerobic digester also provides some saleable by-products. The Craves use the liquid by-product as fertiliser on their fields, while solid by-products are used as animal bedding and in a line of organic potting mixes.
A new set of occupational standards aimed at improving sustainability in the UK dairy industry will be published this summer. Developed by food and drink sector skills council Improve, the ‘National Occupational Standards (NOS) in Sustainability’ will outline the different skills and knowledge the dairy workforce needs to have in order to implement sustainable practices in their work.
Improve chief executive, Jack Matthews, says: “Although sustainability is a real buzz word in the industry at the moment, I think a lot of people remain unsure about what it actually means and what implications it has for their business. These standards not only offer a comprehensive definition, they give companies a practical resource that links directly to staff and business development.”
Fonterra is using resources more efficiently as part of its efforts towards being a more sustainable cooperative. It recently achieved a second major New Zealand energy efficiency milestone in five years, cutting the amount of energy used to manufacture Fonterra products by a cumulative 15% since 2002/03. The most recent reduction is equivalent to the total annual electricity use of around 100,000 households, and will cut carbon emissions by about 230,000 tonnes a year. It represents a 5% reduction in energy consumption per unit of output.
Meanwhile, Fonterra Australia is participating in the government’s ‘Energy Efficiency Opportunities’ initiative. This is designed to identify and encourage the adoption of cost-effective energy efficiency opportunities, boost productivity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Arla Foods UK has a vision to continually improve its operations to achieve maximum efficiency, minimum waste and reduce its environmental impact with the aim of achieving a zero waste culture by 2010. The National Industrial Symbiosis Programme (Nisp) – designed to help businesses improve resource efficiency – is helping Arla achieve its ambitions.
“Being part of the Nisp network means we’re able to tap into some of the UK’s best expertise on reducing business waste,” says Arla Foods work & environment compliance adviser, Richard Laxton. “What has impressed me most is the number of potential business opportunities the Nisp team has identified for Arla. I’ve yet to come away from an event or workshop without at least one potential link or opportunity being highlighted that would result in the company saving money and further reducing its waste.”
From May 2009, Swiss dairy Emmi will produce yogurt and cheese in its Emmen plant using renewable energy. It’s building a woodchip plant that will generate steam for Emmi’s dairy production.
Each year, Emmi uses 32,000 tonnes of steam, produced with heating oil. To reduce heavy CO2 emissions and trim costs, Emmi decided to generate 70% of the steam using green energy. From late May 2009, the new facility is expected to produce some 22,000 tonnes of steam per year. The existing steam plant will remain operational to cover peak demand or times of malfunction and maintenance. However, it will be powered with environmentally friendly, natural gas instead of heating oil. Emmi will save about 1.6 million litres of heating oil a year, equivalent to that consumed by 800 single family homes. The switch to the woodchip facility means a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 4,700 tonnes a year.
UK dairy brand Kerrygold has made a £30m investment in a new ‘green’ factory in Staffordshire. In planning the new factory, Kerrygold has put the environment at the top of its efficiency agenda, with £500,000 of the investment going specifically towards green technology. The factory has made use of regeneration techniques, renewable energy technology and waste reduction initiatives.
The building’s ‘green’ credentials include sun pipes to allow natural light to be controlled via external glazing, a combined heat and power plant that uses gas to generate electricity, and hot water and photo voltaic panels to generate electricity for the site. The design and layout of the new site allows for less movement/handling of the cheese by approximately 20%.
Kerrygold MD, Carl Ravenhall, said the ‘green’ factory was just the first phase of a significant transition into becoming more sustainable.
“By reducing waste and improving energy efficiency, we’re not only showing respect for the environment and the community we operate in, we’re also meeting our customers’ needs and simultaneously improving our own cost efficiencies as a business.”
These are just a few of the many initiatives being carried out across the global dairy industry. While many of these projects are ticking all the right green boxes, they’re also helping the dairy companies to cut down on their output costs.
Recent research from KPMG International and international food retailer association CIES reveals that, far from regarding these actions as a cost, many leading retailers and manufacturers see sustainability as a driver of innovation that can help build growth and profitability. The actions are integrated into the core business and are driven by business need rather than formal requirements. They have a neutral, or even a positive impact on the bottom line.
To use a phrase favoured by politicians, it’s a win-win situation. Let us know what’s happening where you are. Contact FoodBev.com now.
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