The eco-geo connection of F&B industrial waste

By TCBU Editorial


Expressing concerns over intensifying organic food waste generated from the F&B sector, industry leaders discuss diverse measures to minimise the waste whilst keeping up the quality during rural and urban transport.

Predetermined costs and the associated risks are the critical determinants of an organisations technological innovation. Dr. Harshvardhan M Modak, Vice President, National Solid Waste Association of India, Mumbai

On-site waste conversion systems are installed to comply with regulatory authorities, very few industrial players adhere to the government’s guidelines. Jaideep Saptarshi, Executive Director, Vermigold Ecotech Pvt Ltd

Food and Beverage Industry and the waste of packaged food are a global concern subjected to environment, economic and social factors. The food and beverage industry constitutes two major sub-sectors, viz. industry and consumers. Industry consists of food processing industry, dairy, industry manufacturing snacks, cold storages, beverages manufacturing industry etc. Consumer sector consists of hotels, restaurants, eateries, marriage halls, public events etc. The houses, residences, colonies, condominiums and residences etc. also form part of consumer sub-sector.

Current scenario of waste management in Food and Beverage industry Waste from Industrial sub-sector is usually well managed, being covered under Pollution Control Boards (PCB) and hence, monitored periodically. In fact, many units in this sector are producing biogas and manure from their waste and using the biogas for energy generation. Lacunae exist, if any, are in terms of housekeeping, efficiency of operations, productivity of biogas or quality of manure. However, in spite of all these lacunae it can be said that the waste is managed acceptably well.

Discussing the irregularities and stringent management measures to manage the solid wastes generated from the food manufacturing, food processing and other food providing areas, Dr. Harshvardhan M Modak, Vice President, National Solid Waste Association of India, Mumbai, says that the waste from consumer sector in food and beverage, contributes to the biodegradable portion of the total municipal solid waste (MSW) in any Urban Local Body (ULB). “On a national average, biodegradable portion ranges from 40 per cent to 50 per cent of the total MSW in India, including the household, door-to-door waste. This includes wastes segregated from household/door-to-door.”

Plausible ways to manage waste generated by Food and Beverage industry Waste in food processing industry has long been dealt with by traditional methods of anaerobic bio-digestion followed by aerobic activated sludge process. These processes do not happen automatically, it require vigilant monitoring and strict supervision by experienced operators. Noting the significance of smooth functioning of microbiological processes, Dr. Modak says “If these processes are not commenced and completed correctly, it may get totally distressed. It is a long term process to bring them back to normal by changing the septic cultures; else biogas won’t be produced properly leaving behind an significant amount of BOD. This further disturbs the aerobic process for the effluent leftover after anaerobic digestion. Continuous monitoring of efficiency of anaerobic digestion and of aerobic process in activated sludge section.” This will assure sustainable results in terms of BOD removal and recycle of the water in effluent.

Traditionally the F&B industry has given away the organic waste that is generated to carting agencies who then dispose-off the waste to municipal dumping grounds. Pointing out a few system offerings availed by the government, Jaideep Saptarshi, Executive Director, Vermigold Ecotech Pvt Ltd. says “An emerging solution for managing the waste is to dispose it on-site and convert the organic waste into a valuable resource. Government of India’s MSW 2016 legislation mandates bulk waste generators i.e. those who generate more than 100 Kg/day of organic waste to dispose-off the waste on-site. There are also many agencies in the market who charge Rs 8-10/Kg to industries for waste carting to centralised composting facilities.” Many municipalities have permitted such agencies to offer their services to industries that do not have the space to install on-site waste conversion systems. But the end disposal of the waste by these agencies to centralised composting facilities is suspect. Many of them simply dump the waste at municipal dumping sites and charge the waste generators 4-6 times the charges of regular municipal carting agencies.

Considering economical and geographical factors in managing F&B industrial waste Quantity of waste generated by the F&B industry, and the organic waste largely depends on economic and geographical factors. Although innovation plays a key role preventing food wastages on the manufacturing and processing units, economic feasibility in terms of adapting these innovations can be unreal, depending upon the geographical areas (in terms of transportation). Predetermined costs and the associated risks are the critical determinants of an organisations technological innovation. Elaborating on the same, Dr. Modak highlights how the mentioned factors are affecting the industry. For expecting anything proper in any industry, it should be economic based. He says “If there is any economic outcome in any operation, then management ensures that operations run well. Same principle applies to waste management. Fortunately, biogas as a fuel is a viable economic outcome possible from waste management in F&B industry. It helps reduce the fuel consumption in the energy department of the same.”

The geographic situation in some cases does not support proper implementation of ETP units and production of biogas is reduced; BOD removal in ETP is affected. This happens especially winter season, where temperatures drop to a level, which does not support microbiological reaction. Water scarce geography takes toll of the number of operating days in a unit. So special efforts in making water available or recycling the same to maximum extent becomes imperative.

In case the ETP operations enable recycle of water and if it reduces the water consumption, then management also closely monitors it and hence the proper operational results follow. Water is a precious commodity and lack of the same in adequate quantity may throttle the productivity. Hence water is crucial factor.

Saptarshi on the other hand feels, recyclable waste is usually sold off that generates revenue for the F&B operators. Organic waste is carted away typically to municipal carting agencies who typically charge a refuse collection fee from these waste generators on a monthly basis. “We discovered that 3, 4 and 5 star hotels and resorts that have the space for installation of on-site waste handling systems are most likely to install on-site waste handling systems since there are significant economic factors for an F&B generator to commit a certain capex and opex needed to operate these plants. Our experience is that many times on-site waste conversion systems are installed to comply with regulatory authorities, but the industries do not have the willingness to change their internal practices to operate these systems successfully”, Saptarshi added.

Since such systems require a systemic change in the way an F&B waste generator operates. There needs to be a change in several internal practices such as waste segregation etc. which the customers are at times not able to change and that results in sub-optimal operation of these plants.

Industry adhering to managing and recycling food waste guidelines The past record of the industries in the food-processing sector to process their waste properly was indeed dismal. However with the advent of enlightenment of public in general, their awareness of the environmental and pollution control acts the things are different. The advent of special tribunals like National Green Tribunal (NGT) it has become very easy to approach courts for legal remedies for environmental wrong doings. “Many big corporations and even government itself are scared of environmental non-compliance in their workings. The judiciary is nowadays very active in quickly addressing the environmental non-compliance. As a result of this, the managements of food processing units have woken up to these new challenges & overall are improving their waste processing departments towards compliance”, Dr. Modak mentions.

Most F&B generators look at the installation of on-site waste management systems as simply a compliance formality which is done only if it is absolutely required, feels Saptarshi. They do not look at waste conversion systems as a sustainable system that can enhance their marketable commitment towards the environment. Since their focus is on compliance and not on sustainability they ignore life cycle costs and at times install systems that are very expensive to operate and hence unsustainable.

Frugality = Sustainability should be the mantra for industries to select the right system for waste disposal. He says, “Many industries opt for extremely high power consuming devices for waste conversion that makes it unsustainable for them to operate them. Unfortunately there are no Govt. regulations that can assist consumers to make the right decision and hence many consumers do not have the right information to make an informed decision.”

Challenges in using waste management technology to meet rural challenges The majority of food processing industry, especially which depends on agro-produce or dairy, usually is geographically located in rural areas. E.g. Sugar industry, Dairy industry, starch industry, soya bean industry to name a few, are all located in rural areas. All of them use modern technology for production. Looking at their experience over number of years, it is clear that rural area does not pose any problem in their existence, and their day to day operations. In fact due to government’s policy of dispersal of industries all over rural are (to avoid concentration in urban areas) has paid rich dividends. As a result there are all types of industries in rural areas.

Dr. Modak feels that the fear of using modern technology in rural area does not exist at all. He says, “The manpower can be trained for operations, maintenance, replacement etc. The schools, colleges, ITI facility exist in these areas, where people can be trained. The only challenge remains is of proper road connectivity. Railway network is fairly good. However last mile connectivity still depends on road based logistics. The unscrupulous elements in local bodies prevent proper express and fast road connectivity, right up to rural area.”

On-site waste disposal using sustainable technologies has the potential to divert a significant part of organic waste from landfills and convert this waste into a valuable resource. Discussing the same, Saptarshi says “Many of our clients from the hospitality industry have been successfully operating our systems and converting waste into a valuable resource. When buying waste conversion system / applications, customers should look at systems that are sustainable and cost effective across the entire product life cycle. i.e the product should have a low opex to be operated in a sustainable manner.”

Suggested measures to minimise food waste during rural transportation Delays in transport also may spoil the perishable goods. But lately units have taken adequate precaution in terms of refrigerated transportation to avoid spoilages. “The challenge mentioned above of lack of last mile connectivity, may lead to spillage of the goods on the road. The biodegradability leads to the residue becoming rancid & smells bad. Better roads & enclosed container based transport may solve the problem, but economics too has to be worked out”, Dr. Modak notes.

I think F&B industries should carry out waste audits to assess the quantity and composition of waste they are generating, says Saptarshi. Especially since the food that is wasted has a certain monetary value attached to it and any reduction in food wastage can directly add to cost reductions. “Our global award winning system is a fully enclosed in-vessel vermin-composter for converting organic waste into nutrient rich organic fertilizer. The Vermigold Organic Digester is a highly engineered solution that overcomes the drawback of conventional composting and provides end users a hassle free way of on-site waste disposal.” It is a compact solution with lowest power consumption, no requirement of consumables and no requirement of AMC. We offer multiple models available from 50 Kg/day to 2000 Kg/day of waste conversion.

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Vermigold Ecotech is a cleantech waste management technology company. We design, develop and market innovative products for organic waste composting. The company was formed to specifically address the need for an innovative and technologically sound provider of Environmentally Sound Technologies (EST). Our global award-winning products deliver real benefits to the end user and the environment.

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