Understanding Food and Beverage Wastewater Solutions

Jun 3, 2020
Snack Food

Water is vital to the food and beverage industry, as it plays a part from the beginning to the end of production processes. As a byproduct of those practices carried out by food and beverage plants, large amounts of wastewater must be managed efficiently. Without the right wastewater treatment solutions, wastewater quantity may impede a plant’s production capabilities.

To meet the discharge limits required by federal and state regulations, plants need industrial effluent treatment solutions to treat all the water they use.

Wastewater treatment solutions use a variety of mechanical and chemical approaches, such as:

  • Moving bed biofilm reactor (MBBR)
  • Dissolved air floatation (DAF)
  • Membrane bioreactors (MBR)
  • Reverse osmosis (RO)

Diverse Treatment Options

Food and beverage treatment plants use biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and chemical oxygen demand (COD) measurements to analyze waste stream strength. The two methods help determine the oxygen amount required to stabilize wastes. When the levels are high, they can help determine the source of waste or the wastewater treatment equipment and chemical program design.


Critical when dealing with wastewater, the implementation of pre-treatment affects primary treatment and the level of equipment maintenance required. Its stages include:

  • Lifting wastewater above ground using self-cleaning lift stations
  • Screening to remove solid waste
  • Removing fine solids that settle at the bottom using cone bottom tanks, and moving the sludge material to either a storage tank, a filter press, or dewatering hopper
  • Balancing pH levels to a near-neutral pH range

Membrane Filtration

Because the products and services they offer differ, different industries produce different waste products. Some have high levels of solids, oils, fats, starch, or grease, which need distinct filtration or neutralization. The classification of filtration processes depends upon membrane pore size. They include ultrafiltration (UF), nanofiltration (NF), microfiltration (MF), and reverse osmosis (RO).


Though a necessary process within the food and beverage industry, the right balance in disinfection must be maintained to maintain plant efficiency. Over-treating water can waste chemicals, thereby wasting money. Available disinfection options include chemical agents and physical agents such as ultraviolet (UV) light, ozonation, and electron beam.

For example, MacDermid Envio helped a major pork producer significantly reduce chemical costs by implementing Internet of Things technology that enabled them to account for variables in their waste stream. Instead of a fixed-rate chemical dose that was set to handle the worst case wastewater quality, our solution monitored the influent flow and enabled dosage adjustments based on the existing quality of the wastewater.

Odor Removal

Industries with strong odors require this type of treatment, such as dog food, meat, or poultry. Some treatment options for odor control include:

  • Vapor-phase technologies
  • Wet air scrubbing
  • Biofiltration
  • Liquid redox technology
  • Liquid phase technologies
  • Anthraquinone, etc.


Plants must adhere to regulations set by the state and federal bodies (OSHA, EPA, etc.) regarding the disposal of grease, particulates, and air pollution. Businesses must also comply with any limitations set forth by their local municipal public owned treatment network (POTW) as well. POTW guidelines can vary widely, which means each wastewater system must be adjusted to meet the needs of its specific municipality.

At MacDermid Envio, we helped a manufacturer of healthy snack foods who had accidentally exceeded the total suspended solids (TSS) and biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) limits of their local city sewage plant. This problem was costing $100,000 a year in surcharges from their POTW and garnering negative attention from the media as well. While their previous system only treated about 35% of the 70 gallons of water per minute (GPM) they produced, our system made them 100% compliant with the POTW’s requirements and saved about $500,000 over the next five years.

Industrial Application of Wastewater Solutions

1. Bakeries and Cook Plants

A bakery establishment produces, sells, and distributes flour-based, oven-baked food, such as bread, cakes, pastries, pies, or cookies. Commercial bakeries generate concentrated sewage and require a system that removes both solid and liquid waste to protect the environment.

Too concentrated for municipal treatment plants, raw bakery sewage requires a high COD treatment. It contains suspended solids; fats, oils, and greases (FOG); and organic pollutants. Dissolved air floatation (DAF) treats the water to bring it to a level optimum for biological treatment. Once at this level, biological treatment of wastewater can remove the remaining biodegradable pieces in the wastewater using microorganisms. The activated sludge process relies specifically on suspended growth microorganisms to reuse and remove sludge.

Finally, a sequential batch reactor (SBR) employs this activated sludge process using a timed sequence until clear water collects in the clarifier after it has settled and finished decanting. Each of these treatment options differs, just like the size of individual bakeries and their wastewater characteristics.

2. Cooling Towers

Cooling towers are specialized heat exchangers that bring air and water into direct contact to reduce the water’s temperature. Treatment with cooling towers minimizes water depletion and helps remove zinc, carbonate, and chromates. Chemical dosing is an effective treatment process in preventing growths that limit the circulation of cool water. These cooling towers see significant use in oil refineries, HVAC systems, and petrochemical plants.

3. Breweries, Wineries, Distillers

Sewage from breweries, wineries, and distilleries contains large solids, fermented waste, and sludge. It relies on five main components to treat wastewater: screening to remove solids, settling to remove sludge, pH balancing, biodigestion, and lift stations equipped with stainless steel sump pumps.

4. Snack Foods

Candy and other snack food manufacturers produce wastewater that constitutes free and emulsified fats, oils, and grease (FOG). FOG separates naturally from water because it weighs less and is hydrophobic. Therefore, manufacturing plants can use conventional oil and water separators or skimmers. Sometimes, physical or chemical stabilization in water is necessary for emulsified FOG.

5. Meat, Poultry, and Fish

The wastewater generated from food production contributes significantly to environmental pollution. Challenging to manage because of its high chemical and biochemical oxygen demands, wastewater produced in food production can contain large quantities of nutrients, nitrogenous organics, inorganics, as well as dissolved and suspended solids.

Luckily there are several options available, including aerobic and anaerobic treatment, dissolved air floatation (DAF), and moving bed biofilm reactor (MBBR).

6. Dairy

Dairy wastewater treatment applications fall into two primary categories: milk bottling and product production (of butter, whey, cheese, yogurts, ice creams, and other derivatives). The chemical oxygen demand (COD) of dairy product production is over 10 times higher than just in milk bottling. Since the waste products are biodegradable, both aerobic and anaerobic wastewater treatment processes are standard.

7. Soft Drinks and Bottling

Beverage producers generate wastewater through two aspects of operation:

  • Removing sugars, carbohydrates, cleaners, and solvents from the production process
  • Cleaning the bottles and other equipment

Beverage producers tend to prefer anaerobic wastewater treatment solutions because they require less energy and reproduce biogas. Also, limited space constraints have pressured plants to adopt more compact biological treatment systems.

8. Pet Food

Pet food processing plants produce significant amounts of wastewater high in concentrations of COD, BOD, FOG, and TSS. Because of these large volumes, odor removal remains an important consideration.

Custom & Turnkey Solutions from MacDermid Envio

MacDermid Envio understands the critical relationship required in the provision of industrial effluent treatment and wastewater management solutions within the food and beverage industry. We provide top-quality wastewater treatment equipment, proprietary chemicals, as well as an optimized chemical regimen to meet regulatory standards as well as achieve our clients’ budgetary goals.

Thoughtfully designed, our single-source model addresses all aspects of wastewater treatment and includes the option to add our customizable EnvioCARE service program. To learn more about how MacDermid Envio can help with your food and beverage wastewater treatment solutions, contact us today.