Don’t waste the chance for sustainable growth

For the most part, the world is starting to move on from the recession. In the UK alone, GDP is up, unemployment is at its lowest since 2008 and the economy grew by 2.8 percent in 2014. Manufacturing is starting to see the benefits of this, crystalised in an upswing in business. However, growth is not without its own challenges and something as seemingly simple as wastewater management can impede progress. Here the Wastewater Innovation Platform of global water, energy and maintenance solutions provider, NCH, looks at the consequences of increased effluent load.

A recent study by Research and Markets predicted that the UK’s food and drink manufacturing and processing industry is set for a growth of three to four percent, to reach a value of £113.1bn by 2018/19. These figures are evidence of economic recovery, the seeds of growth in manufacturing that’s only going to increase in the next few years. Add into the mix constantly improving and evolving automation processes and there’s little doubt we’re going to see a swell of output from the manufacturing sector.

While this is great news for manufacturing businesses, consumers and the global economy, it’s important that this new wave of growth is sustainable. With any increase in production there is an inevitable increase in waste, but failing to accommodate amplified volumes, costs and the need for associated licenses can grind a company to a halt.

Effluent licensing and fees

The Water Industry Act 1991 governs the disposal of all water used in production, washing or cooling facilities for both large and small businesses. In particular, effluent from industrial and manufacturing processes is very closely monitored, as suspended solids in the water can have damaging effects on the environment, watercourses and sewers.

For this reason, any business that intends to dispose of effluent is legally required to hold a license to do so, as well as paying an annual fee, which is determined by the level of contamination in the water. According to this license, limits are placed on various parameters that can be disposed of in a 24-hour period.

To manage the impact on the environment and to dilute the negative effects on sewer systems, things like organic load, suspended solids and separable oils and greases are also limited to specific levels per license.

Remaining within these parameters is not only vital for legal reasons; there are also cost implications to consider. Charges for effluent disposal are set each year and monitored with regular checks. The amount a company pays is determined by the average chemical oxygen demand and the suspended solids in the water. The higher the levels, the higher the cost.

Increased productivity, increased waste

Extra activity, whether as a result of a company merging several sites into one location or simply being busier than usual, is going to put pressure on a company’s effluent systems.

For example, a chocolate manufacturer may be busier during the months ahead of Christmas and Easter due to increased consumption of chocolate goods. A company that moves productivity from several plants to one central location will increase the pressure on an established water treatment system. Even upgrading an automation system can significantly step up production, dramatically increasing effluent load.

With increased loads on water treatment systems and plants there is less time for suspended solids and other contaminants to be treated before discharge. This increases the levels being introduced to sewer systems or the environment. If these factors are not taken into account, companies will be limiting their own productivity as well as leaving themselves vulnerable to fines and legal action.

Exceeding the limits of suspended solids and potentially harmful materials stated on a trade effluent license when discharging to utility-managed sewers will result is large fines. If a business or water treatment plant discharges directly to the environment in breach of agreed levels, environmental agencies can shut down operations and bring legal proceedings against the perpetrator.

Sustainable growth

Even if a business predicts an increase in demand on its wastewater management, it isn’t an easy or cheap process to adapt a trade effluent license to allow for higher contamination levels. Besides, what if the increase in business is temporary, or unexpected? Should a company turn down potential orders?

Improper management of wastewater treatment programmes has the potential to limit the growth of a business by either creating barriers to increased production or by diverting profits earmarked for investment towards relicensing or improving water treatment facilities.

The key to breaking through these limitations lies in being able to bring contaminants in effluent loads within licensed levels in a shorter timeframe. At NCH we’ve invested a great deal of research and development into creating technology that answers this need.

While many leading treatment products remain dormant for many hours after dosing, the live bacteria delivered by our BioAmp systems are active from the moment they enter the water.

The bacteria used have the ability to easily break down complex carbohydrates, proteins, animal and cooking fats, oils and grease. This makes them effective at removing trapped, decomposing waste that causes foul odours, usually as the result of a blockage of fats, oils and grease (FOG) that clogs drain lines or grease traps. The solution also breaks down contaminants that contribute to biological oxygen demand (BOD), chemical oxygen demand (COD) and suspended solids (SS), reducing the risk of charges or non-compliance.

A solution like this, which can be easily integrated with existing wastewater treatment equipment and can mount easily in space-restricted locations, means that contaminants are easily broken down without reliance on time consuming filtration technology, ultimately removing worries about meeting legal requirements.

Sustainability is the most important theme being discussed by businesses and governments at the moment, from sustainable economic recovery and sustainable business growth to sustainable environmental protection. There are many things that can derail the sustainability of a business, but there’s no need to let wastewater treatment be one of them.