Getting water from milk

A Mossel Bay milk factory has revolutionised its production processes by switching to an approach that will see them reduce reliance on municipal water.

The Nestlé factory, which produces various milk products, including Nespray and Nido, will now rely on milk water by evaporating the water in the cow’s milk processed on site. This will then be captured and reused in the factory.

milkThe zero-water manufacturing site, inaugurated by Water and Sanitation Minister Gugile Nkwinti, is the latest branch of the Swiss multinational to implement this system — under the title of Project ZerEau.


From left: Chris Ngwendu (Nestlé Mossel Bay manager), Gugile Nkwinti (minister of water affairs and sanitation), and Helene Budlinger Artieda (Swiss ambassador). Credit: cms.groupeditors.com


Factories in Mexico, India, and China are already on similar systems. The company has invested R84-million to install and implement the new system. Nestlé South Africa corporate affairs director Ravi Pillay says that a further five factories were in the process of transitioning to the system, with 14 more factories employing certain elements in their processes. According to Pillay, the milk being processed at the plant could contain up to 88% water, though the system is currently recovering around 65%.

“The plant processes fresh cow’s milk through an evaporation process,” Pillay explains. “The evaporated water is captured and treated through reverse osmosis, then remineralised and used for various applications within the facility. Water is also recycled by using anaerobic digester technology coupled with ultra-filtration and reverse osmosis systems.”

Through this, the factory saves about 467 tankers’ worth of water monthly, compared to its usage before it began implementing water-reduction plans in 2009. “Municipal water is still required for various day-to-day uses, such as employee consumption and fire systems. The municipal usage is dependent on the volumes of milk processed and water recovered.”

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