Large corporates including Nestle, L’Oreal, Anglian Water and GSK will share best practice case studies and identify key innovation challenges in their businesses at BlueTech Forum which takes place in Dublin, Ireland on 6th-7th June. BlueTech will develop a format and agenda with participating companies to generate innovative solutions for the toughest problems that industry faces in operations today.

Hans-Ulrich Buchholz, Head of Environmental Compliance, Corporate QEHS Group at L’Oréal, speaks to us in advance of his participation in BlueTech Forum.

Hans’s main responsibility is water and wastewater management of L’Oréal’s operations worldwide in order to evaluate and to reduce the impact of their industrial activities, especially on local water resources.
Within the framework of its sustainable development program, called “Sharing Beauty With All”, L’Oréal is committed to reducing by 2020 the environmental footprint of its plants and distribution centres by 60%, from a 2005 baseline. The Group’s key criteria for industrial performance includes reducing CO2 emissions in absolute terms, cutting water consumption, reducing waste per unit of finished product, and shrinking the transport footprint.

What are L’Oreal looking for in terms of new technology?

There is certainly a need for new technology solutions to enable us go beyond our current targets in terms of sustainability goals to manage water, waste and energy.

One issue for L’Oreal is that many suppliers offer specific technologies for wastewater treatment, which may solve an issue in terms of water quality, but in doing so, may also produce a waste by-product or increase our overall energy use, thereby impacting other environmental vectors.
For example, one of L’Oreal’s long term goals is to completely eliminate the use of drinking water for industrial purposes, through reuse and water avoidance. We can get a huge part of the way by recycling water – but we can’t close loop up to 100% without using very energy-intensive technologies.
So, for us, a holistic approach is needed. We want solutions that look at the bigger picture, for example zero liquid discharge that requires as little energy as possible. This will be one of the innovation challenges we will speak about at BlueTech Forum.

How does L’Oreal select new technologies?
The quality of industrial wastewater depends strongly on the mix of product manufactured on our sites. So in most of the cases, pilot testing is needed to qualify the most efficient water treatment technology. It is always a learning process between us and the supplier.
The criteria for the selection of technologies are efficiency, liability and sustainability. We search for new technologies that have minimum environmental impact in terms of additive use, energy demand and waste generation.

What specific issues has L’Oreal experienced?
In our experience, for example, Moving Bed Bio-Reactor (MBBR) generally works best when we use it in conjunction with a conventional activated sludge plant and can create issues if it is used separately as a stand-alone process. At the same time the pilot test will show what the best combination of waste water quality and technical solution is.
We implement water reuse projects using MBR and membrane technology. The challenge of how to best deal with membrane clogging is one of the issues we need to manage carefully. These are some of the areas where peer-to-peer learning from our colleagues in different industry areas will be very advantageous.
We are open to new ideas that might optimize the whole treatment process in a holistic manner.
We are looking for sustainable innovation – for example combinations with algae-based wastewater treatment would be interesting, combined with activated sludge as well as treatments that are more natural, e.g. wetlands.
I would be interested to learn more about anaerobic MBR technology to see if it makes sense for us. Experience in this area from other industry sectors can be helpful.

Do you collaborate with other manufacturers?
In the cosmetic industry in particular, the quality of wastewater varies greatly and a benchmark is quite difficult.

We do, however, cooperate very closely within the company between our manufacturing sites – we share best practices, and internal databases for wastewater treatment installations. Company-wide operational guidelines for wastewater treatment allow us to capitalise on our in-house knowledge and experiences.

To drive innovation, collaboration and connection with other companies, suppliers and universities is very important and we are excited to participate in the Corporate Water A-List RoundTables at BlueTech Forum and leverage access to BlueTech insights into best practices in other industry sectors.
How do you keep up with technology developments?

Listening to our suppliers, reviewing published articles, and of course conferences such as BlueTech Forum are key for us.
What I can see is there is relatively little true innovation. The principal wastewater treatment processes are the same as they were 15-20 years ago in many cases. One of the reasons for my attendance at BlueTech Forum is I am eager to be proved wrong on this!

About BlueTech Research

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About BlueTech Forum

BlueTech Forum will take place The Marker Hotel, Dublin 6th – 7th, June 2017, the theme for this years event is Water and the 4th Industrial Revolution. BlueTech Forum is a boutique industry event which brings together the world’s leading water technology companies, entrepreneurs, investors, and executives from leading research centres to network and hear cutting-edge presentations on market trends and insights.