Coca-Cola has developed and tested at commercial scale a first-of-its-kind beverage process water recovery system to produce high-quality water that meets and/or exceeds drinking water standards for use in non-product activities such as clean-in-place and bottle washing. The innovative system expands the range of manufacturing applications for recovered process water and sets precedent for conservation and reuse in the beverage industry.
“Because responsible water management is at the heart of a sustainable future, overcoming today’s water challenges calls for extraordinary action,” said Bea Perez, chief sustainability officer at Coca-Cola in a prepared statement. “We’ve assumed an active role in advancing innovation that conserves and sustainably manages water resources for the benefit of all—communities, nature, and business.”
By reusing—rather than treating and discharging—the water used in bottling facilities, The company can reduce operational water needs and improve water use efficiency by up to 35 percent, contribute to growth and local economic development opportunities, further support local communities, and reduce its water footprint.
In the absence of global reuse standards for the food and beverage industry, the company pursued a scientifically rigorous, widely applicable water recovery and reuse approach. The resulting beverage process water recovery system provides water for reuse in selected operations, including clean-in-place and bottle washing. The system takes highly treated process water and further treats it using proven, state-of-the-art technologies: biological treatment in a membrane bioreactor, ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis, ozonation, and ultraviolet disinfection. The high-quality water meets and/or exceeds stringent drinking water standards.
“Addressing global water challenges requires our business to take an active role in conserving water resources,” said Carletta Ooton, vice president, chief quality, safety, and sustainable operations officer. “We have approached this new technology with the goal of achieving the highest possible quality in recovered water. The multi-barrier system meets or exceeds even the most stringent water quality standards, reflecting our companywide commitment to safety, quality, and the environment in everything we do.”
In the Coca-Cola system alone, this new water reuse approach could save as much as 100 billion liters of water annually if implemented across all bottling plants. Perhaps even more significant is that the project’s multi-year bench- and commercial-scale testing, specific operating criteria, best practices, and excellent finished water quality set precedent for the beverage industry by expanding the range of manufacturing processes that can benefit from water reuse. The company is currently reviewing internal plans to rollout this technology to its bottling partners and align plans for implantation across bottling facilities in 2013 and beyond.
The company and this innovative technology have been recognized with the Innovation in Small Projects Award by the International Water Association at its Asia Pacific Regional Innovation Awards. The company submitted the water recovery and reuse system technology and results from its pilots in India and Mexico. The project will also be entered in the IWA Global Awards later this year.