Unilever and Paques, the water and gas purification specialist, have started the construction of a bio-digester at the food group’s Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory in Hellendoorn, the Netherlands. In the bio-digestion process, waste products that are released during the production of ice cream are converted into energy.
The bio-digester from Paques will cover 40% of the ice cream factory’s green energy requirements. In addition, building the bio-digester fits in perfectly with the further implementation of Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan aimed at reducing the production of waste and the consumption of water and energy. The bio-digester is expected to become operational mid 2011.
After a successful test period, Unilever has opted for a new type of bio-digester from Paques, the BIOPAQ®AFR, in which natural micro-organisms (in this case more than 24 billiard (24·1015) little bugs) ‘eat‘ waste products and convert them into biogas. In this system, wastewater is purified by converting waste products from ice cream production such as milk, cream, proteins, syrups and pieces of fruit into biogas.
The BIOPAQ®AFR is an innovation in the field of purification of fat-containing wastewater. What is unique about it is that wastewater streams that contain fat and oil are treated/digested in one compact reactor, together with degradable particles, whereas in conventional systems this is only possible by going through a number of processing stages.
The construction of the bio-digester started in autumn 2010. Unilever is one of the fist companies worldwide with such a bio-digester.