Ben & Jerry’s has become the first ice cream company in the world to power one of its factories using the by-products of ice cream.
The values-led company has announced the launch of the new BIOPAQ®AFR Biodigester (AKA ‘The Chunkinator’) at their European factory in Hellendoorn, Holland after a year of testing and eighteen months of trial runs. The Willy Wonka-esque contraption will convert wasted milk, cream, syrups and pieces of fruit from the production process into energy.
Now for the “Clever Cookies” science bit…Designed to cut down on lost energy, the Chunkinator, an anaerobic flotation reactor, is fed ice cream waste into its tank, where 24 billion natural micro-organisms break down the particles turning them into biogas. At the same time, waste water, created as a bi-product of keeping the creation station’s machinery sparkling clean, is also fed into the tank, which acts like a battery by insulating water at the correct temperatures for ice cream creation and dramatically reducing the need for natural gas to heat the plant.
The novel machine is an innovation in the field of purification of fat-containing wastewater. The innovation comes from wastewater streams that contain fat and oil being treated in one compact reactor, together with the degradable particles – whereas in conventional systems this is only possible by going through a number of processing stages. The machine has powered 16 million pints of Ben & Jerry’s in the past year, from “Cookie Dough” to “Phish Food”, and came out of test mode in June to be fully operational.