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13th December 2017, Kaiserslautern

Freudenberg develops innovative water filtration process

Freudenberg Performance Materials, a leading manufacturer of innovative technical textiles, has managed to save 500,000 litres of water in Chennai, India, within half a year after deciding to recycle all of its wastewater. “This is a pioneering initiative for the clothing industry in India and an important signal for the region in terms of sustainability,” the company explains.

India’s economy is growing rapidly, putting the country among the fastest-growing economies in the world. If this trend continues, India’s gross domestic product will be the third largest in the world by the middle of the century, behind only China and the US. The current population of around 1.2 billion is also set to multiply.

Share of total CO2 Emission. © Statista, Germanwatch

By 2050, India could be the most populous country in the world. But India also has huge challenges to master. It urgently needs to fight poverty, promote infrastructure projects and promote education. And rapid industrialisation and urbanization are also calling for a realignment of the country’s environmental policy. At the moment, India has the world’s third highest level of CO2 emissions.

Environmental destruction

Indian cities not only suffer from air pollution and industrial waste. Because wastewater is usually discharged untreated into rivers and then used to irrigate the fields, the risk of disease increases. This is why special attention will need to be paid to wastewater treatment in the future.

In its 2013 report Diagnostic Assessment of Select Environmental Challenges in India, the World Bank estimated the annual cost of environmental destruction to be around 5.7% of gross domestic product. At the same time, India had already devoted itself to the topic of environmental protection as far back as 1972. In the wake of the speech given by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to the world’s first UN environmental conference in Stockholm, a water protection law was passed, and a corresponding regulatory authority established.

“India does not necessarily lack legal standards or environmental laws. What tends to be lacking is rather an ability to enforce these regulations and social awareness of the issues, which can be attributed to the sheer size of the country. We need more commitment and initiatives that continue to sharpen public awareness,” explained Saravanan Mani, former chairman of the Industrial Waste Management Association.

Pioneering initiative

One such initiative was recently launched by Freudenberg Performance Materials (FPM) in Chennai. Like many other Indian industrial companies, the site is not supplied with filtered water for the production of its interlining materials. As a result, the employees are forced to extract groundwater and prepare it independently. To obtain the approximately 16 million litters of water required each month, up to now three times that amount of groundwater needed to be pumped and filtered.

Residues in the wastewater generated during the production process are completely removed and collected. © Freudenberg Performance Materials

“Rapid growth has been a priority in India to date. Overall, sustainability and the protection of resources are only slowly gaining in importance. However, with a view to future generations, we have a duty to focus much more strongly on waste prevention and energy saving,” said Sivasailam Gunasekaran, Managing Director, Freudenberg Performance Materials, Chennai, India.

To begin with, the team composed of scientists and employees collected a variety of water samples. After extensive laboratory tests, they developed a new and efficient technology called the Advanced Water Filtration Process. This is a multi-stage process composed of a primary sedimentation basin and a reactor. The first task is to prepare the groundwater for first-time use. A total of five steps are now required to derive a clear liquid from the unfiltered groundwater.

Sustainability India

The groundwater has a temperature of 25 degrees Celsius and needs to be heated up for the production process. After being used for production, it is collected again, cleaned and then fed back into the production cycle. As it is already at the necessary operating temperature, no further energy is needed to heat it, which in turn conserves resources.

Residues in the wastewater generated during the production process are completely removed and collected. The main consumer of these solids is the cement industry, which uses them as fuel. “To date, a process of this nature is unique among interlining production companies in India,” said Sivasailam Gunasekaran. “Within half a year, we were able to save 500,000 litres of water. That may not sound like much, but it’s an important start.”

Mr Gunasekaran is convinced that sustainability is increasingly becoming an incentive and a measure of the value of products in India too. His team is already working on other ideas to further promote environmental protection at the site.


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