Milk-processing plants generate significant quantities of wastewater with relatively high organic matter concentrations on a daily basis. In addition to environmental damage that can result from the discharge of these wastewaters into the natural waterways, the presence of products such as milk solids into wastewater streams represents a loss of valuable product for the plants. This paper presents a review of wastewater management practices employed by six milk-processing plants in Victoria, Australia. In all six plants investigated, milk powder represents a major product. During the milk powder production, water is evaporated, condensed and can be reused for various purposes with a significant impact on water usage. Other major products are anhydrous milk fat, cheese, butter, and UHT milk.
The effectiveness of the practices was assessed through two main criteria: first through the water to milk intake ratio, and the waste volume coefficient. Both parameters characterise the plant efficiency in regard of water consumption and water reuse. Information on cleaning chemical usage and recovery was also assessed as part of the review. Significant discrepancies emerge between the plants first due to the products manufactured and water reuse possibilities available in each plant. Second the type of treatment technologies used for condensate and cleaning solution influences the figures. One of the investigated plants is almost self-sufficient for water, emphasising the benefits gained from the use of technologies like membrane separations for condensate and cleaning solution treatment. In some cases, less cost-intensive technologies such as a clarifier are successful to improve cleaning agent recovery.