ANALYSIS - One of the main aspects at this year’s IFFA trade fair in Frankfurt was the sustainable use of energy and resources where particular attention was paid to automation on the production side, writes Chris Harris.
Much of the focus from the equipment manufacturers and service providers was on the use of water and the ability to preserve and recycle this diminishing and valuable resource both inside and outside of the processing plant.
The exhibition showed that now there are numerous ways of managing and treating waste water from the processing plant including the use of chemicals, floatation units, aerobic biological treatments and filtration
FAN’s Dissolved Air Flotation Unit (DAF) is designed for the removal of light particles from wastewater streams using microbubbles to raise the solids in the waste water to the surface of the tank to be skimmed off.
Nijhuis Water Technology uses an aerobic biological waste water treatment to solve the problem, while EnviroChemie water management use a chemical solution to purify waste water in the plant and MPS’s AQUA Industrial Watertreatment focuses on the specific production process of each plant.
Because the composition of wastewater varies greatly and the degree of pollution depends on the industry and the production process used it means that any form of wastewater has its own specific properties. This has led to a variety of treatments, and processes all aimed at lowering the footprint of the processor and the effect of the waste on the environment.
However, it was not only in the control and treatment of waste that saw the focus of the IFFA exhibitors this year turn to sustainability, it was also in the construction and working of the multitude of machines on show.
The German equipment manufacturers’ association VDMA has spearheaded an initiative, the Blue Competence scheme that encourages and applauds manufacturing methods and actions taken by companies to reduce their carbon footprint, reduce energy and resource use and to enhance efficiency.
Compared with 1998-2000, today companies in Germany save almost €7 billion a year as a result of using modern machinery and equipment, according to the VDMA.
By 2022, the association estimates that the annual potential saving may be as high as €20 billion.
These figures clearly illustrate that sustainability does not just have an ecological and a social dimension – but also has an economic impact, the association said.
The VDMA’s Blue Competence scheme, launched two years ago, gives companies, such as the casings clipping machine manufacturer PolyClip, the ability to market not only its products but also the company with increasing sustainable credentials.
The company moved to a new headquarters and production site recently that helped ease production and also the company’s impact on the environment and with products such as the FCA 80 clipping machine developed for small and medium sized enterprises and the AHL LS and HS machines that load sausages on the rails automatically ready for cooking and smoking, the increased efficiency is reducing the production impact as well as labour costs and also increasing hygiene and food safety.
Other companies have used new technology to also produce more sustainable options.
The packaging equipment manufacturer Multivac has reduced the use of more inefficient pneumatics in their machines such as the R095 and R105.
According to Guido Spix, Multivac’s managing director: “It is about reducing the energy consumption of the machine and also about the quantity, thickness and type of packaging material. Together this improves the carbon footprint of the packaging process.”
He added that the new range of machines “manage with just electrical energy and without the use of compressed air and cooling water”.
“First we have replaced the pneumatic cylinders of the lifting units and cutting units with servo motors.
“Generating compressed air requires a lot of energy.
“Secondly, the machine is equipped with a cooling water flow control unit, which enables the consumption of fresh water to be reduced.
“Thirdly, we have developed several technical innovations in the thermoforming, sealing and cutting stations, by which we can reduce the film consumption by some 10 per cent.”
This reduction in the use of materials and hence the environmental impact is a common theme among packaging equipment suppliers. Sealpac’s EasyLid system provides a hermetic seal and full lid function in one sealing process.
As Sealpac says, it “not only creates the optimal requirements for consumer-friendly packaging, but also takes on the responsibility in terms of sustainability”.
According to Hans-Joachim Boeksteggers, Multivac’s CEO the reduction in the use of resources as well as the extension of the shelf-life of food are going to be the driving forces for the future helping processors increase efficiency.
He added that although the new technologies might appear more expensive, the reduction in downtime as well as the reduction in energy and water use makes them very marketable and it will also be a continuing theme for the future.