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Irymple Citrus Products at Merbein Victoria was once only a citrus processor, but now also produces a range of juices including carrot, grape and apple juices, and wine, using various technologies to concentrate and deionise the juices. It also makes a range of fruit paste blends for the food industry.
The location of Merbein on the lower reaches of the Murray River presents some challenging environmental issues, not the least of which is water management. Water salinity and BOD are critical measures in the local ecosystems. While the water authority has developed wood lots to accept waste water, the waste must conform to strict tolerances.
Analysis of the results of the benchmarking program undertaken by the company identified reducing water use and controlling salt load in waste water as among the best initial opportunities to improve its environmental performance and its economic efficiency.
Water is consumed for steam production, washing raw materials, cleaning equipment and washing down the area. Analysis of water use on the site included analysis of water use by product type.
The larger areas of water consumption were tackled first, substituting virgin water with waste-water streams with low levels of contamination. Recycling measures include:
Water consumption has been reduced by approximately 30 per cent. The success of this program has, however, highlighted the contaminants (previously low, now in increasingly high concentrations) in the waste water.
Salt is an end-product of caustic cleaning, acid and alkali ion-exchange resin regeneration, and also pH adjustment dosing systems. These basic processes were examined for their contribution to salt loads in the waste water:
The two small waste streams coming from apple and grape juice clarification combined to contribute 36 per cent of the waste water volume but 80 per cent of the salt load.
Along with caustic cleaning, the process of juice de-ionisation generates most of the salts at the point when ion-exchange resins are regenerated with acid and caustic soda solutions. Both these sources of salinity in the waste water are being tackled using the waste management hierarchy of:Measures that are bringing about lower salt loads in the waste water include:
Irymple Citrus Products has established a continuing process-improvement effort that develops further savings to the business from generating a cleaner and more sustainable environmental outcome.
While Irymple Citrus Products' waste disposal costs represent only a small proportion of its total manufacturing costs, wastes are seen as an important factor in our manufacturing improvements. More waste is seen as poor business.
It has not been plain sailing for the ICP team. Members had to respond to changing markets and raw material availability. But adapting to change has made the company more resilient and able to tackle problems with a can-do attitude.
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.