On World Water Day, we’re all being asked ‘Why waste water?’ Instead of rejecting wastewater, we should focus to reduce and reuse it wherever possible, to help preserve this vital natural resource.
But worryingly, over 80% of wastewater generated by society flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused. Many countries, treat only 28% of the wastewater they generate while around 8% of industrial and municipal wastewater is treated.
As part of our 42 commitments, Nestlé in the Central and West Africa region (CWAR), is committed to treat the water we discharge effectively to a level that it safe to return to the environment. For this we ensure compliance to meet the strictest regulations, either local or own internal standards.
In my role as the Safety, Health and Environmental Sustainability Manager for CWAR, I work alongside our highly qualified engineering team that helps to do this.
We set strict targets for every wastewater effluent parameter, ensure compliance through audits in all sites each year and identify any gaps and wastewater requirements. We also take appropriate actions to continuously improve efficiency of our wastewater treatment operations.
Wastewater treatment facilities
Our factories in CWAR are equipped with wastewater treatment facilities, in which wastewater from our operations is treated before it is discharged to make it environmentally safe.
For example, we constructed our own on-site wastewater treatment facility in Tema, Ghana and invested in an Ultra Filtration-Reverse Osmosis system at the site to improve the quality of wastewater. The system also enables us to reuse 30% of wastewater treatment plant effluent for non-core activities.
At our Dakar factory in Senegal, treated wastewater is used to irrigate grass while the sludge is used for fertiliser. As a result, there is no discharge of wastewater from this site.
Through our wastewater treatment facilities, we have been able to reduce the total water consumption in our operation in CWAR by 36% in 2016.
So how does it work? Here comes the science bit…
We treat wastewater by using wastewater treatment facilities, which are biological units. We remove contaminants by firstly mechanically eliminating the coarse solids.
Biological treatment is then used to remove the biodegradable organic substances and nutrients from the wastewater.
These substances are then converted into sludge that is removed at the end of the operation. So the water we release is safe for the environment.
This helps to keep communities safe, doesn’t pollute marine life and helps to preserve the environment.
Reinforcing skills of our people
In 2016 we also launched water treatment and management workshops in the region to reinforce knowledge of our employees and achieve in the future a level of independence in the management of water and waste water in the region.
We worked with an expert company and Nestlé Group engineering to develop a pilot Wastewater Treatment Programme that provided classroom and on-site training, coaching and technical support to employees, as well as inspections of the sites and their operations, at our Agbara and Flowergate factories in Nigeria, the Tema site in Ghana and the Yopougon facility in Côte d’Ivoire.
The programme – which looks to standardise our operations, provide accurate wastewater analysis and support compliance at all our sites – is now running in all our factories in the region to ensure we always comply with all internal and external standards and regulations.
Remote support at each site will also be supplemented by one visit per year, including refresher training and on-site inspections, as well as regular communication to strengthen our employees’ knowledge and expertise.
But this is just the start. Nestlé is committed to continuously work to achieve water efficiency across our operations.
Our initiatives like wastewater treatment facilities and training our employees’ show what is possible and what we can – and will – achieve in the future.