Articles & Case Studies

Drink a toast to treatment

Posted: Thursday 29th September 2016

In the food and drink industry, one of the most important responsibilities is to maintain high levels of sanitation throughout the production process. For organisations that bottle beverages, water treatment is a fundamental part of any effective hygiene regime and there are stringent health and safety standards which need to be met.

Historically, organisations have used biocidal products which are based on chemicals such as chlorine, bromine or iodine, to disinfect water systems. However, concerns over their impact on product quality and the environment have led to the development of sanitation methods that don't rely on halogen-based chemical disinfectants. These are being increasingly utilised by the world's leading drink producers.

Cleaner technologies

One such treatment method, which holds a number of benefits for bottlers, involves the use of ozone as a disinfection agent. When dissolved in water, ozone produces an extremely powerful and environmentally friendly biocide through oxidisation, capable of eliminating bacteria, viruses and microbial cysts.

Unlike other disinfectants, ozone does not combine with organic materials to create chemical by-products or residues during the sanitation process. In addition, the substance naturally breaks down into oxygen once contaminants have been removed, resulting in minimal product interference.

Resource efficiency is another key advantage that comes with the ozonated water as, instead of being flushed away, it can be reclaimed and used countless times. Despite this, the substance is over 50 times more reactive than chlorine, the more traditional alternative, making it a highly efficient disinfection agent.

Leading the way

One major company, currently making the most of this advanced, non-conventional water treatment technology, is Coca-Cola HBC Ireland and Northern Ireland. As one of the largest bottlers in Ireland, the business produces a range of beverages for the island of Ireland from its production plant in Lisburn, County Antrim.

With a heavy focus on sustainability, Coca-Cola HBC was recently named global beverage industry in sustainability for the 3rd consecutive year according to Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI). The local business contributes to these results, with ambitious local targets across water, carbon and waste to help the Group achieve these global accreditations.

Coca-Cola HBC places a high importance on water stewardship in its operations, making use of local fresh water for its production and cleaning processes. Regular risk assessments are conducted at the plant, and the business aims to ensure that all water is returned to the natural environment in a condition that supports aquatic life. In addition to its environmentally friendly focus, Coca-Cola HBC commits itself to high internal efficiency standards, incorporating water saving technologies into its production lines and setting its teams stringent targets to meet.

Before they are filled, all receptacles going through the plant are washed in line with international food safety management standards, such as ISO 22000. With this in mind, Coca-Cola HBC needed a water treatment system that did not rely on the use of halogen-based disinfectants and was specifically designed to ensure minimal disruption to operations.

Bringing ESG on board

Over the last 15 years, ESG, the UK's leading testing, inspection and compliance company, has been working with Coca-Cola HBC Ireland and Northern Ireland, maintaining a range of ozone water treatment equipment at its production plant in County Antrim.

Two OCS 100 water disinfection units installed in the plant currently provide Coca-Cola HBC with ozonised, reclaimable water on two bottle washing lines. These highly reliable devices use state of the art technology which results in minimal oxygen demand and energy consumption.

Since the contract began in 2002, ESG's water treatment team, which specialises in non-chemical disinfection methods, has been carrying out regular, quarterly maintenance of the ozone systems, helping ensure uninterrupted operations within the plant.

Having been impressed by ESG's maintenance services over the years, Coca-Cola HBC has made several advancements on its original contract, the most recent of which being the purchase of a remote monitoring and control option. The new upgrade to the ozone equipment allows ESG to remotely access the system from any location and make alterations to the programming from offsite. By using the machines, the company is also able to save around 50 litres of cooling water for every minute of operation.

Mick Pratt, commercial director, ESG, commented: "Over the last 15 years, ESG has worked with Coca-Cola HBC Ireland and Northern Ireland to ensure a smooth and reliable service. The recent upgrade means the Water Treatment Team can log-in to the units from ESG's office in Thame, Oxfordshire, and monitor the system in real time, making any changes instantly and remotely if required.

"Due to the highly dependable nature of the equipment, ESG hasn't had a call out to conduct emergency maintenance on the system in over two years. Even so, its service engineers are always at the end of a phone if any issues need to be resolved and can be on site to provide support within hours of a call."

Jim McCambley, engineering services manager, Coca-Cola HBC, added: "We were very proud to be recently named beverage leader in sustainability for a third consecutive year, and locally we are pleased to say that our efforts have contributed to these results.

"In our Lisburn plant, we have reduced water usage by 13% over the last five years and are on track to achieve our 2020 commitments in this area. With our advanced water treatment system, we have complete assurance that products are sanitised in the most efficient and effective manner, without the need to use any halogen-based biocides. As the machines use reclaimable water for their cooling systems, this helps us to minimise consumption and continually achieve these internal targets."

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