(Editor’s Note: This is an online-only article attributed to the August/September 2019 issue.)
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As consumer demand for transparent food and beverage supply chains increases, beverage producers must embrace sustainability to achieve a competitive advantage and drive the industry forward. According to the Brewers Association, most breweries discharge 70 percent of their incoming water as effluent, or wastewater that flows to the sewer system.
A commitment to conserving resources must begin in the production hall to effectively create a successful, sustainable beverage strategy. Investing in reliable, high-quality innovations for cans, bottles, and more can help beverage producers meet their sustainability commitments, such as reduced CO2 output, water use, and waste sent to landfill, in addition to upholding product quality.
Waving Goodbye to Water
Conveyor lines for kegs, cartons, bottles, and cans are essential for maintaining efficiency when producing and packaging beverages. Water-based solutions are often used to lubricate conveyors and allow these containers to glide with ease. However, this process can be very water intensive. A high-volume, high-speed can line will typically use up to 2.5 million liters of water per year to lubricate conveyors, and a returnable glass bottle line can use three times that much. With a water-free, oil-based lubricant, organizations can reduce water usage by up to 100 percent.
A water-free lubricant and application method also reduces friction between the product and the conveyor belt and between the conveyor belt and the wear strip, reducing the stress on conveyor motors and, in turn, using less energy.
In addition to wasting precious resources, water-based lubrication requires treatment of the effluent, creating the ideal environment for potentially harmful biological growth and sometimes resulting in slippery floors that increase the risk of slip-and-fall hazards. In comparison, dry lubrication can reduce chemical use and effluent load, and improve safety and hygiene within the facility.
Dry conveyor lubrication technology can also help lessen an organization’s carbon footprint. Many bottles, cans, and cartons are damaged during the filling and packaging process. Often, these containers cannot be recovered and have to be recycled or sent to landfill. New containers then need to be manufactured to meet production demands. Applying a dry lubricant on top of and underneath conveyor belts offers better friction control on a zone-by-zone basis, helping direct product traffic, improve package handling, and, as a result, reduce instances of fallen and wasted containers. By limiting damage, waste, and reproduction, beverage producers generate fewer CO2 emissions.
Optimizing Sanitation Processes
Adhering to high hygiene and sanitation standards is critical to ensure that beverages are produced safely. Cleaning processes such as cleaning in place, open plant cleaning, spraying, and rinsing can account for as much as 70 percent of all factory process water usage. Optimizing these processes is an easy way to save water and promote sustainability in a processing facility. Reducing temperatures and utilizing low-temperature detergents, switching from five-step hot cleanings to three-step cold cleanings, and optimizing timings for different recipes instead of applying the same setting to all cycles are additional ways to enhance sustainability during the factory cleaning and sanitation process.
Identifying how and where water moves through your site can also transform water management and uncover potentially hidden savings opportunities. For example, analyzing where water enters and exits can identify leaks in the distribution system, allowing greater insights on where water is being wasted. Usage monitoring can also help uncover wasteful behavioral practices, such as over-rinsing in open plant cleaning and using unsuitable equipment like high-pressure hoses that consume greater quantities of water. Creating a holistic map of how employees use—and waste—water and setting and working toward specific benchmarks can promote the value of water and encourage new, improved behaviors and best practices.
Supporting Sustainable Beverages
Within the food and beverage industry, sustainability is becoming a more urgent topic as organizations take steps to meet the demand for environmentally friendly business practices. From dry conveyor lubrication to making slight tweaks to the sanitation process to carefully assessing the flow of water throughout the facility, there are numerous measures that beverage producers can take to reduce their reliance on a limited freshwater supply.
Fortunately, selecting smart, sustainable innovations for your brewery or beverage hall can both protect product quality and help meet important sustainability targets. Protecting and improving the environment is good for the bottom line and for our planet.
Grober is an R&D Application Fellow with Diversey’s Food & Beverage division. Reach him at Stefan.Grober@diversey.com.