A delegation of the Flemish government pays an official visit to the water recovery plant of the Sedibeng SA brewery of Heineken SA

Heineken South Africa recently hosted a government delegation from the Flemish region of Belgium for a tour of a newly built water reclamation plant at the Sedibeng Brewery. The treatment plant was built in 2020 by the Flemish company Waterleau, a global water technology company specializing in the design and construction of water and wastewater treatment infrastructure.

The Heineken Sedibeng brewery water recovery plant in South Africa

The visit of the Flemish-Belgian government led by His Excellency the Minister-President Jan Jambon, was part of a showcase by Waterleau on its successful hydraulic projects in South Africa, of which the Sedibeng wastewater treatment plant is part .

Key stakeholders present included the Executive Mayor of Midvaal, Peter Teixeira; the diplomatic representative of the Flemish Government in South Africa, Dr. Geraldine Reymenants; Johannesburg City Councilor Michael Sun; as well as representatives from Rand Water and Johannesburg Water.

The Sedibeng Brewery Water Reclamation Plant is one aspect of Heineken’s global Brew a Better World strategy for 2030. It aims to “push things forward towards a net zero, fairer and more balanced world “. This strategy is of immense benefit to the local communities around its breweries, such as the Midvaal communities who were represented on the occasion, due to its essential objective of conserving local water supplies and wetlands.

“At the heart of this strategy is Heineken’s reduction in dependence on local water supplies, by reclaiming waste water instead. With this plant, up to 30% of the brewery’s water consumption is saved, producing up to 45,000 m³ per month of drinking water, the equivalent of 18 Olympic swimming pools of water each month. Heineken, one of Africa’s and the world’s leading brewers, has completed over 30 such projects across Africa with Waterleau Group,” said Vinicius Genio de Almeida, Heineken Supply Chain Director. South Africa. De Almeida noted that the food and beverage sector needs large amounts of water for production, and as Southern Africa is ranked by Bloomberg as one of the most drought-stressed regions in the world. by 2050, Heineken has sought such innovative solutions to reduce its water consumption. .

De Almeida also noted that the company’s investment in local infrastructure is part of its commitment to President Cyril Ramaphosa at the government’s annual investment conferences. Water is at the heart of local communities but also essential to the beer brewing process: “The brewery produces eight million hectoliters of beer and other products a year. Each bottle of beer requires four liters of water. The aim of this project was therefore to reduce the water content of four liters per bottle to 2.5 litres. This project demonstrates Heineken’s responsibility towards the environment and local communities.

Delegation including the Flemish government and key local stakeholders

Delegation including the Flemish government and key local stakeholders

Jambon described his government’s involvement as one of his initiatives to combat the impact of climate change on the environment. “The best way to achieve this, as in the case of this project, is to implement efficient technology and innovations. We see our contribution as developing these technologies locally in Flanders and then spreading them to the rest of the world in this way.

Water reclamation has become increasingly accessible in recent years in the food industry as the technology has evolved to be able to provide the extremely high standard of quality required in a brewery.

Bart Goedseels, CEO of Waterleau, described the effluent treatment plant technology. “It is an anaerobic and aerobic technology, not only to clean the effluents to the discharge limits of the rivers, but also to convert this pollution into biogas. Water discharge limits are strict, with chemical oxygen demand below 75 ppm (parts per million) and suspended solids below 15 ppm. In addition, all nitrogen and phosphorus are eliminated.

This biogas is collected in the anaerobic treatment stage and returned to the brewery’s boilers. At full production capacity, it saves 15-20% of the brewery’s natural gas demand. Instead of sending the purified effluent to landfill, we then added the water recovery plant. In this plant, the water is still treated to drinking water standards, by ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis.

During these steps, all the last pollutants are removed from the water, resulting in drinking water that is 100% free of pathogens and viruses, according to the strictest standards of the World Health Organization, it is only used as service water in the brewery. Although the water is not used by the community as drinking water, it nevertheless reduces the demand on the community’s drinking water resources, which reduces drought stress in the area.

Mayor Teixeira acknowledged Heineken and the Flemish government, saying his municipality has considerable interest in these technologies to improve access to water.

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