Unilever is taking a Ben & Jerry's factory in the Netherlands a green step forward: constructing a bio-digester that will convert the waste products from ice cream production and provide for 40 percent of the factory's green energy requirements. Made by Paques and expected to be operational a little later this year, the BIOPAQ®AFR is not like bio-digesters of old.
After a successful test period, Unilever has opted for a new type of bio-digester from Paques, the BIOPAQ®AFR, in which natural micro-organisms (in this case more than 24 billiard (24•1015) little bugs!) 'eat' waste products and convert them into biogas. In this system, wastewater is purified by converting waste products from ice cream production such as milk, cream, proteins, syrups and pieces of fruit into biogas.
What's unique about it is that wastewater streams that contain fat and oil are treated/digested in one compact reactor, together with degradable particles, whereas in conventional systems this is only possible by going through a number of processing stages.
No word on whether the technology will be expanded to factories that Ben & Jerry's (whose founders are also in the news because of their stance against the Citizens United case) has in the U.S.
But stay tuned for news as the BIOPAQ®AFR gets up and running. (It's a promising initiative, but biogas projects aren't always as green as they seem.)