Conserving Water

Every Drop Counts

Did you know Freudenberg’s interlining factory in Chennai is the first of its kind in India to recycle every drop of its wastewater?

Water is of priceless value. That is why Freudenberg Performance Materials in Chennai, India, has chosen to recycle every drop 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.

India’s economy is growing rapidly, putting the country among the fastest-growing economies in the world. But India also has huge challenges to master. Rapid growth has contributed to air pollution, industrial waste, and water shortages.

Environmental destruction causes high costs:

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 percent of gross domestic product.
In August 2019, the Associated Press reported that the southern Indian city of Chennai was suffering from extreme water shortages, threatening its economic growth. The country as a whole received 16% less rainwater than usual, leading to drought conditions. To deal with the shortfall, the government has been treating and shipping water into the city, but it’s not a sustainable solution. Taking the initiative to conserve water makes sense for the industrial sector. With less water resources available, costs increase, as do the risks of business disruptions due to lack of supply.

Reusing Water in Interlining Production

One such initiative was launched in 2017 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 must extract groundwater and prepare it independently. To obtain the approximately 16 million liters of water required each month, up to now three times that amount of groundwater needed to be pumped and filtered. The team was not content to accept this situation, nor the accompanying large volumes of industrial wastewater and the harmful production residues it contained.

“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.”

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 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.
Step 1

Step 1 – Raw wastewater is collected.

Step 2

Step 2 – The water is treated to coagulate solids, and allowed to settle.

Step 3

Step 3 – The settling process is repeated for a second time to maximize the removal of solids.

Step 4

Step 4 – The water is treated with flocculants to further encourage solids to clump together.

Step 5

Step 5 – All residual organic material is removed, and water is ready for reuse in production. The residual solid material is dried and sold as a fuel for other industries.

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.”

Sivasailam Gunasekaran
“Within half a year, we were able to save 500,000 liters of water. That may not sound like much, but it’s an important start”, Gunasekaran continued. He 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.

The Sites of Freudenberg Performance Materials