The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO) says it has developed a first-of-its-kind beverage process water recovery system that can cut its water use by 35 percent.
According to the beverage giant, the new system meets or exceeds drinking water standards for use in non-product activities and is used for clean-in-place and bottle washing. Coca-Cola said the system takes highly treated process water and further treats it by using a combination of membrane bioreactor, ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis, ozonation, and ultraviolet disinfection.
The Atlanta-based company said it believes that its system stands out from current treatment processes used in its business sector.
“While we and other members of the food and beverage industry have recycled and reused water for various processes for many years, this pilot is a first-of-its-kind beverage process water recovery system,” said Greg Koch, director of global water stewardship for the Coca-Cola Company.
Koch said the benefit of the system could potentially be enormous.
“By reusing cleaned and treated water for non-product applications, the new system could potentially lessen the company’s withdrawal of water in the long-term as our unit case volume continues to grow. In the Coca-Cola system alone, that’s approximately 900 bottling locations in 206 countries,” he said.
As much as 100 billion liters of water could be saved annually if the system is implemented across all Coca-Cola bottling plants.
Analysts say Coca-Cola’s new water reuse system is potentially groundbreaking for the beverage industry.
"There’s no question that Coke is using its innovative skills around technology with this system, coupled with its commercial scale in bottling, to change the H2O treatment game in a meaningful way," said Robert Kuhn, president of Kuhn Associates Management Advisors.
Kuhn also calls the size of the system's efficiency improvement impressive and said the beverage giant's new project reminds him of the successful work done around packaging the “plant bottle” technology that has now been licensed to Heinz and other companies.
"There may be other neat H2O treatment systems out there in beverage, but what Coke has is innovation plus size and that’s pretty profound," he said.
Koch would not disclose how much it will cost Coca-Cola to roll out the project. “The water recovery system will require significant capital investment,” he said.
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