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Ardmona Foods Limited is a leading Australian food processing and marketing company located some 180 kilometres north of Melbourne in the heart of the Goulburn Valley. It manufactures a range of retail and industrial fruit-based products from pears, peaches, apples, plums and tomatoes. It processes some 100,000 tonnes of fruit annually. The plant has more than 10 hectares under roof including production, warehouse, workshop and cool room storage areas.
Analysis of the results of the benchmarking program undertaken by the company identified waste water as an area offering one of the best initial opportunities to improve its environmental performance and its economic efficiency.
The processing of tomatoes for canning requires a number of washing steps in which water is lost to effluent. Water is a precious commodity in the Goulburn Valley, so any reduction in its use benefits not only the company but also the community.
An audit of the production line undertaken during the 1999 tomato season identified the process steps that contributed most waste water to effluent.
Measurements of water flow were made at each of these steps by catching and measuring water inflows and outflows. The tomato-washing and steam-peeling steps were found to be the biggest users of both raw and potable water and so became the focus for improvement.The company asked these questions:
It was found that while water was required to transport and wash the fruit, use of fresh water could be restricted to the final rinsing step. In all the other steps, recycled, filtered water could be used. In the case of the steam-peeler, it was worked out how the function performed by the water could be achieved in another way.
Ardmona Foods focused continually on waste minimisation while at the same time requiring justification of any capital expenditure to achieve waste reductions. In many cases, solutions that could not be justified as stand-alone projects were incorporated into a production-line upgrade. As this is so often the case with waste-reduction initiatives, a formal process of reviewing waste-reduction opportunities is now part of all capital expenditure proposals.
As shown in the table below, the revised process reduces water consumption by some 77 per cent. Steam-peeler modifications are expected to realise an 85 per cent decrease in water use. These significant reductions have focused the company on the benefits of using waste management methodologies.
The challenge is to apply the methodology used for the tomato line to other processes within the plant. The overall plant target is to reduce water usage per tonne of fruit processed by 5 per cent annually over the next three years. The changes described above achieved this target for the first year. The target provides a focus for further waste-reducing activities and, importantly, an awareness that, whenever they present, opportunities to incorporate waste-reducing initiatives should be exploited.
This case study was prepared by the Department of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development, Victoria. Environment Australia would like to thank them for allowing us to display their case study on our web site.