Water recycling saves abattoir

Wednesday, 17 February, 2010

Drought, and the fundamental need to stay in business, has brought on a radical process re-engineering effort at Radford Meats in Warragul, Victoria.

The company has gone through several transformations since opening in 1946, but the most recent will keep it in business, as well as helping the environment.

Water is essential in an abattoir and, with the assistance of a $203,800 AusIndustry Re-Tooling for Climate Change grant, Radfords has replaced its old water supply system with ultrafiltration technology - a red meat industry first.

“We quickly realised that water recycling was our best option. In drought conditions, using mains water in the volume required was not a viable option,” Managing Director Robert Radford said.

The ultrafiltration system is expected to recycle up to 90% of the water used at Radfords. Currently it uses about 45.6 megalitres of water a year.

“Our previous system was fed by a natural spring on the company’s land. We realised we needed to do something when the spring began running dry up to once a week,” Robert said.

Before installation of the ultrafiltration system, wastewater was pumped into the pasture from the settling ponds at the site.

“The new system will re-use the wastewater and, in a complementary development, we have modified our refrigeration plant to capture all defrost water. Feeding the ‘cold’ defrost water back into the system also greatly improves the energy efficiency of our cooling towers,” Robert said.

Previously the defrost water from the refrigeration plants drained away - wasted. Injecting this ‘pure’ water dilutes the overall effluent stream, reducing the duty on the ultrafiltration system and providing further energy savings.

“Many people have shown interest in following the success of the system. It is the first time ultrafiltration has been used in Australian meat processing,” Robert said.

Robert believes that if each meat processor in Australia adopted an ultrafiltration system, up to 13 gigalitres of water could be saved each year.

Radfords was awarded the 2009 Telstra Business Social Responsibility Award in recognition of its leadership and contribution to the environment, people, education and the community.

“We have tested and refined the system to adapt it to our needs and find ways to send as much of the water we use through the system. We are confident it will help us to keep growing.

“The Re-Tooling for Climate Change grant has made a critical contribution to our business survival strategy,” Robert said.

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