But over 80% of wastewater generated by society flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused. For example, in lower middle-income countries, only 28% treat the wastewater they generate. In low-income countries, only 8% of industrial and municipal wastewater is treated, according to Sato et al, 2013.
In the Central and West Africa Region (CWAR), Nestlé is investing in reducing water released to the environment and improving its wastewater treatment facilities to make sure it meets local legislation or its own internal standards.
Edward Dawutey, a lab technician for at Nestlé Ghana’s Tema Factory, explains that the factory needs water to operate, and providing a reliable supply is an important priority for all of us.
When water cannot be reused, either in the manufacturing process or for external factory purposes, it must treated before being returned to the environment,
Nestlé experts, such as Edward, set strict targets for every wastewater effluent parameter, ensure compliance through audits in all sites each year and identify any gaps and wastewater needs. The company also creates action plans and proposes strategies to continuously improve efficiency of its wastewater treatment operations.
Wastewater treatment facilities
Nestlé’s factories in CWAR are all equipped with wastewater treatment facilities, in which wastewater from its operations is treated before it is discharged to make it environmentally safe.
The company built an on-site wastewater treatment facility in Tema, Ghana in 2010 and invested in a new system at the site to improve the quality of wastewater. The system also enables Nestlé CWAR to reuse 30% of wastewater treatment plant effluent for non-core activities, reducing the total factory water consumption by 10%.
At the 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.
At Nestlé, wastewater is treated by using treatment facilities. Contaminants are taken out by firstly mechanically removing 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 biological cell tissue that is removed at the end of the operation. So the water that is released is clean.
This helps to keep communities safe, doesn’t pollute marine life and helps to preserve the environment.
Training and education
Water treatment and management workshops were launched in the region in 2015, as part of the company’s commitment to treat the water it discharges effectively.
Its assessments had shown that there were some gaps in the training and knowledge of its employees, so it focused on improving this.
Nestlé CWAR developed 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 in Nigeria, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. The programme – which looks to standardise its operations, provides accurate wastewater analysis and supports compliance at all its sites – is now running in all our factories in the region.
The company provides training, coaching and technical support; analyses water accurately and complies with all internal and external standards and regulations. Remote support at each site is also backed by one visit per year, including refresher training and on-site inspections, as well as webinars and newsletters to boost its employees’ knowledge and expertise.
But this is just the beginning, says Edward. Nestlé continuously aims to achieve water efficiency across its operations and reduce all types of waste as much as it can.
“Wastewater treatment facilities and training employees shows what can – and will be achieved – in the future,” he adds.