What is water recycling and why is it important?

By: James Greenwood on May 5, 2021

The UK is facing increasing periods of drought and is enacting more legislation to protect its waterways from pollution. As a result, it's never been more important for industry and agriculture to recycle the water they use. And the good news is that reclamation is not only the right thing to do from an ecological point of view, but it can have a real commercial upside, too. So, what’s entailed - and can you really ‘do it yourself?’

What is water recycling?

Water recycling (also known as water reclamation) is the process of treating wastewater using machinery and chemicals for re-use in your own or other company’s industrial cycles.  

Why is it so important?

The devastating environmental impact that mismanaged wastewater can have is illustrated in the recent disaster in Tampa Bay in the US, where industrial waste water from a defunct phosphate plant is threatening the marine and wetland ecology of a large area, as well as the safety of the human population.  

Finding new, commercially efficient ways to handle potentially harmful waste is one of the most pressing challenges for those interested in developing a safer, more circular and sustainable industrial economy.

Who can (and needs to) recycle their waste water?

There are many industries that can benefit from wastewater recycling

  • Farmers and agri-tech
  • Fish processors
  • Abattoirs and meat processors
  • Soft drink manufacturers, breweries and distilleries
  • Dairy operators
  • Digestate & slurry treatment sites

Why recycle industrial waste water?

Removing contaminants from your waste, recycling it and creating a ‘closed loop water management process’ can make a lot of commercial sense. Many companies are currently paying over the odds for mains water supply and disposal, as well as being hit with TE (trade effluent) charges for the pollutants they are pumping back into the sewage system. Recycling your wastewater, therefore, can:

  • Reduce the amount you will pay for incoming water use
  • Reduce the amount you have to pay for water and waste disposal
  • Lower the overall environmental impact of your operations

Any other upsides?

Apart from the warm glow of satisfaction from delivering more efficient, less harmful operations at a reduced cost?  

Plenty. 

Depending on the level of treatment it is given the wastewater from factories, processing plants and farms can be reused by you and others for: 

  • Landscape and crop irrigation
  • Environmental enhancement
  • Countless other potable and non-potable industrial uses

And waste-water treatment can support a truly circular economy.

Treated sludge and other waste products (such as biopolymers and starch) extracted from your waste water can also be sold on for use in:

  • Agricultural fertilisers
  • Animal food production
  • Thermal and electrical energy production
  • Construction materials

What are the four stages of waste-water treatment for recycling?

1. Primary treatment

The first stage of the water treatment process separates suspended solids (SS) from wastewater. 70% to 90% of these materials are removed through flocculation, coagulation, settling and flotation processes. At this stage chemical reagents are introduced depending on the degree of purification required.

2. Secondary treatment

These advanced biological treatment methods, harness the ability of certain bacteria to eliminate dissolved pollutants contained in wastewater. These include carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus pollutants. These biological treatment methods are sometimes also with the use of chemical reagents when treatment goals are high.

3. Tertiary treatment

This final stage looks to remove any remaining dissolved solids from purified water and disinfected wastewater so that the treated water can be reused.

4. Sludge treatment

The materials and pollutants removed during treatment operations become sludge which (as discussed) can have great potential for commercial reuse.

Choosing the right chemicals is also key to controlling odour throughout the process, which can lessen the environmental impact of implementing an on site recycling solution.

You can read more about the details of water treatment and recycling here.

But water treatment recycling isn’t really in my skill set...

We understand. But high quality water recycling capabilities are now well within the financial and operational reach of the companies who will benefit from it the most. And the financial imperatives of being able to deliver on these capabilities are growing. 

Working with specialist partners to consult on the process, install the right machinery and advise on the right chemical treatments to use, will help you understand, manage and realise how to:

  • Design and plan the most effective and efficient solution
  • Your regulatory obligations - and how to meet them

As well as offering ongoing support in operating the solution.

All this, while not detracting from your core business functions or operational cashflow - and even enhancing the efficiency with which you deliver them.

Where do you start?

A trade effluent audit looks at your existing output to identify ways your business might be able to save money by treating and recycling wastewater. It can help monitor your output to see if you are currently compliant with regulatory requirements.

Auditors look at your existing effluent so see exactly how it’s contributing to your business costs, and whether there are any usage trends that could suggest opportunities for more efficient treatment or reuse. They can also benchmark your current discharge to compare you against businesses working in similar sectors of the same size and scale.

Upgrading your water treatment capabilities to increase reuse potential and lever extra economic benefits will become more important in the years to come. As new environmental regulation is added and governments interest in the circular economy becomes enshrined in legislation, concentrating on this now, will put you way ahead of the curve.

Wastewater Treatment

Topics: Wastewater

James Greenwood

Written by James Greenwood

James Greenwood as been working in the Water Treatment and Water Hygiene Industry for over 20 years. He is currently the Sales and Marketing Director for WCS Group the largest water hygiene and treatment Company in the UK. James has been instrumental in bringing significant innovations to the UK market over the years always focusing on enhancing client’s compliance and delivering true return on investment projects offering monetary and environmental savings.