Jan 07, 2013 • By

Manufacturing innovation saves water

Water is a precious resource and our manufacturing facilities are hard at work to use less of it where we can.

I recently spoke with Scott Perkins, a project engineer at our plant in Vineland, N.J., about his work to develop an innovative new water recycling system that is saving the plant 56 million gallons of water annually.

Scott had the great honor of accepting an Environmental Quality Award from the New Jersey Business and Industry Association (NJBIA) on behalf of General Mills. This story from The Press of Atlantic City, talks more about the award and the initiative at the plant.

(Scott Perkins, center, project engineer with General Mills of Vineland, receives an Environmental Quality Award from the New Jersey Business & Industry Association at its Oct. 16 Awards for Excellence Dinner. Presenting the Award are NJBIA President Philip Kirschner, right, and Matt Wright, president of Piper Holdings and vice chairman of the NJBIA Board of Trustees.)

The Vineland plant is now able to capture and recycle the non-potable water used to cool soup cans in the final stage of the canning process – a necessary step so the cans can be labeled and packaged.

In the old process, this water was simply sent down the drain. Under the new system, the cans are passed through a “cooling shell” that uses the recycled water to cool the cans. A heat exchange system captures the heat from the water and transfers it into other processes.

General Mills is able to realize a 16 percent reduction in the plant’s water and energy usage rates over previous levels before the system upgrade.

Across the company, General Mills has reduced its water usage rate by 11 percent and we are halfway toward our 2015 goal of 20 percent (from a 2006 baseline).

The Vineland example is just one of many innovative ways General Mills is working to reduce its water use.

At our cereal plant in Cedar Rapids, Ia, General Mills is using a new filtration system that will reduce annual water usage by 50 million gallons – enough to meet the water needs of about 2,700 people per year (based on each person using 50 gallons per day).

In Hannibal, Mo., the plant there has improved the glass jar washer on the Old El Paso sauce line. By simplifying the mechanics behind the jar washing process, the plant now saves an estimated 1.5 million gallons of water per year.

And in Covington, Ga., an on-site wastewater treatment facility treats that plant’s food processing wastewater so thoroughly that the water can be fully reused.

This video has further details:

For more information about General Mills’ commitment to water reduction, check out this fact sheet..

Editor’s note: The photo at the top of this post from our Vineland plant features, from left to right: Douglas Brooks, Amy Zimmerman, Gwen Keelan, Scott Perkins, Dan Wynn, Ed Peterson, Ana Quintana, and Larry Anderson.