Bakeries can reduce their water usage from the infrastructure, either by treating and re-using water in the plant or collecting water from alternative sources such as rainwater. Having a water treatment facility onsite, however, is a significant capital investment, but there are ways to recirculate some water without that investment.

“While there are limited opportunities to reuse water in food production facilities, we look for ways to reuse water in process equipment with no direct food contact, such as coolers and tray washers,” said Margaret Ann Marsh, vice president of sustainability and environmental, Flowers Foods. “Working with our bakery teams, we have found ways to recirculate water more frequently and enable the reuse of water when cleaning filtration systems.”

Grupo Bimbo has invested in treating and reusing its wastewater. The company has more than 89 wastewater treatment plants and guarantees treatments for the rest of its bakeries through external services. Overall, Grupo Bimbo increased its reuse of treated water by 9% in 2019 compared with 2018, totaling 82% of treated water. This isn’t used in formulas but supports other services such as facility restrooms and cleaning delivery trucks.

Throughout the years, Grupo Bimbo has sought to continuously improve its water treatment systems, looking for equipment that is efficient, compact and easy to operate. Today’s treatment systems take up less floorspace and are more economical.

[Related reading: Grupo Bimbo, Flowers Foods share key water conservation tactics]

“We have evolved from very large biological treatment systems to very compact biological systems supplemented with membranes,” said Alejandra Vazquez, global environmental management director, Grupo Bimbo, Mexico City. “We’ve achieved this thanks to the improvement in the cleaning process inside the operations and  technological improvement in the treatments.”

Grupo Bimbo operates facilities all over the world, and when it started water treatment, the company relied on the technology available. Today, however, Grupo Bimbo has a better understanding of the characteristics of the waste discharges. With this knowledge, it can more easily define the technologies necessary to treat the water and identify global allies that have that technology. 

“When we have an acquisition, we work to incorporate the treatment, ensuring the parameters established within the company for reuse, always taking into account that they are the strictest when compared to legislation,”
Ms. Vazquez said.

Grupo Bimbo has also branched out beyond typical municipal water supply or groundwater. Today, the company has 108 operations (sale centers) with rainwater collection systems. From 2016 to 2019, Grupo Bimbo went from using zero cubic meters of collected rainwater to 6,264 cubic meters.

All of this helps Grupo Bimbo close the cycle and use water efficiently.

This article is an excerpt from the July 2020 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on water reduction, click here.