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Monitor your way to compliance

15 May 2022

When the Environment Act was issued at the end of 2021, the UK government made very clear that it is focused on tightening the environmental impact of wastewater and trade effluent. Dave Walker explains what it may mean for the food processing industry. 

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As water companies will have to further improve sewer networks and how they are used, food processing companies will also find themselves under the spotlight with regards meeting regulatory and environmental compliance.

While it’s true to say that legislation has long been in place to regulate wastewater within the food processing industry, the Environment Act 2021 will undoubtedly place increased pressure on companies over the next two to five years. 

What’s more, when it comes to regulation, the industry is also still subject to Best Available Techniques Reference (BREF) – a series of documents created to regulate different industries as part of the Industrial Emissions Directive. Although the UK has since left the EU, these documents are still at the forefront of ensuring regulatory compliance.

For the food and drinks industry, the BREF was published in December 2019 and all affected food, drink and milk installations need to comply with a permit to operate in line with the new standards within four years of this – so, by the autumn of 2023 at the latest.

The only way to improve efficiencies and achieve potentially stricter compliance will be by monitoring wastewater more rigorously throughout the entire production process. As such, site managers and production teams need to step up and embrace monitoring as a key element of their day-to-day role.

Identifying issues
Detronic is currently working with several food processing firms and site managers to identify issues within specific areas of the process, improving knowledge and providing long-term solutions to improve both time and cost efficiencies.

For example, we recently helped a company to identify a massive waste of rapeseed oil. By implementing a six-week monitoring project, we identified that each week thousands of litres of neat rapeseed oil were going into the sewer network. 

Working with the operations team, we suggested installing screens to prevent the rapeseed oil from entering the sewer and capturing it for alternative use. We were also able to pinpoint various stages of the process where the rapeseed oil was being lost and the company is now consulting with a specialist machinery on a specific fix for this within the process. The result is a more efficient production process and a significant decrease in rapeseed oil costs!

Another food operator which operates a processing facility based in a historic site with combined sewers approached us to better understand its wastewater consent licence to ensure compliance. Surface water should not be included in a wastewater bill and, following a four-week infiltration & inflow (I&I) project, we calculated the average amount of surface water heading into the sewer network. The client informed the local water company, and the volume was removed from the wastewater bill and will be monitored moving forward to achieve further cost savings.

By implementing fit-for-purpose wastewater monitoring not only will a process meet environmental compliance and regulations, but the entire business could benefit from cost-savings, enhanced operating procedures and improved staff productivity. 

Dave Walker is commercial director at Detectronic.

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