Tapping Value from Wastewater

By Javier Alarcon

Industrial wastewater is exactly that — waste. 

Cleaning and flushing are necessary activities in any facility, but the end product — wastewater — has traditionally gone straight down the drain for treatment and disposal. That disposal comes at a cost without also benefitting our production, products or bottom line — until now.

Teams at Clorox plants in Bogotá, Colombia, and Quilicura, Chile, saw untapped value in this industrial wastewater and developed a smart, environmentally friendly solution to manage it.

The result? Dramatically reduced water usage and the biggest sustainability win out of Clorox’s Latin America operations for the past 12 months, not to mention significant cost avoidance.

A new wastewater reuse program in Quilicura, Chile, is helping to cut Clorox water use by tens of millions of gallons a year.

Starting with the rinse cycle

The mission to reuse wastewater started with production rinsing.

Every time a production batch is completed, the plant pumped softened water through the system to flush any residual product in the piping and tanks to an internal Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP).

This is where a multidisciplinary team focused its efforts (inspired, in part, by rinsing practices at the Clorox plant in Caguas, Puerto Rico). The team made changes to manufacturing practices and equipment to reduce wasteful rinsing practices, including reusing some rinsing water and eliminating a rinse cycle in certain defined production sequences.

The results have exceeded expectations and even inspired other Clorox sites in Latin America to reevaluate their own operations.

Javier Alarcon (right) and team members at the Clorox plant in Bogota, Colombia, developed a process to reuse wastewater.

Environmental savings

The water savings are impressive.

We’ve cut our water use by close to 10 million gallons, equivalent to the annual consumption of about 730 people in Latin America. This is helpful for meeting our 2020 goal to reduce our water use by 20 percent by 2020 (compared to 2011.)

An added bonus is we no longer pay to treat this wastewater.

We recovered a real treasure from the drains in Bogota and Quilicura, one that inspires us to think beyond traditional manufacturing practices and brings sustainability to life, with direct economic, environmental and social benefits to Clorox.    

Read more about our sustainability commitments and progress against them: