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Milk and Fruit to Help Power Unilever Plant

Unilever has started building a system to derive energy from wastewater at a Dutch Ben & Jerry’s factory.

The Paques bio-digester will derive energy from waste products released during the production of ice cream at the facility in Hellendoorn.

The BIOPAQ AFR bio-digester will contribute 40 percent of the plant’s “green energy” requirements, Paques said. It is expected to be operational in mid-2011.

The system will use micro-organisms to convert waste products including milk, cream, proteins, syrups and pieces of fruit. Each BIPAQ AFR system uses more than 24 quadrillion – or 24,000,000,000,000,000 – organisms.

The digester is able to treat fats and oils together with degradable particles. In more conventional systems, oils need to be processed through a number of stages, Paques said.

Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan promises to halve the greenhouse gas emissions, water use and waste output of the company, accounting for both direct operations and actions by suppliers and consumers.

The company plans to more than double its use of renewable energy to 40 percent of its total energy requirement by 2020. The company expects that CO2 emissions from energy at its factories will be at or below 2008 levels, despite higher volumes, by 2020. This represents a 63 percent reduction per tonne of production and a 43 percent absolute reduction (versus a 1995 baseline).

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