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RPCs and Water Conservation

Posted by IFCO Systems
January 27, 2016


As an industry, it is important for growers, shippers, retailers and other service areas of the supply chain to work together to conserve water. Considering IFCO washes and sanitizes one million RPCs per day, it’s no surprise there may be concern regarding RPCs and water consumption. However, through the recycling of water, the RPC wash process actually helps growers, packers, shippers and retailers to conserve water in the long run.

Throughout the fresh supply chain, water is the number one industrial commodity for many companies, in terms of use. That’s why recycling water is such a critical best practice to include in your processes, where applicable.

For IFCO, 75 percent of water is reclaimed for reuse, and only one-third of a cup of water is consumed in washing an RPC, dramatically less than the water involved in producing a corrugated cardboard carton.

How does IFCO recycle water?

Imagine the beginning of the machine, where the dirty RPCs are put into the machine, to the end, where the clean RPCs come out of the machine. This is best described as a reverse-time process. So, when the water is first pumped in, it is pumped in at the back end of the machine. The cleanest water is always touching an RPC right before it comes out as a cleaned product.

The used water then makes its way backwards through the cleaning steps, until the dirtiest water is what spays the RPCs during the initial pre-rinse stage. Picture the RPCs flowing from left to right through the system as they are cleaned, and think of the water as moving from right to left.

Once the used water comes out of the front of the machine, it goes into a recycling and reclamation unit. There, it is purified in a process involving the addition of chlorine, sodium bisulphite and reverse osmosis. Subsequently it is run through powerful large filters and collected in a tank, where the supply is topped up with fresh city water.

This is where the aqueous ozone shines, as it is the same product used by all municipal water authorities in the U.S. to treat drinking water. The ozone cleans biofilm residue that can clog filter pores, resulting in those filters lasting 4 times as long in comparison to a process using chlorine. Independent analysis has determined that in terms of water consumption per use, IFCO RPCs use 92 percent less water on a per shipment basis than the production of corrugated cardboard cartons.

How can your company conserve water?

RPCs are just one piece of your overall water conservation program. If your company is looking to establish new best practices regarding water, start by auditing your current water usage. Once you’ve identified trends and problem areas through meters and readings, you can move forward to fix drips and leaks. Companies can also work with their employees to increase awareness of water usage through education. In addition, consult staff to research and identify opportunities to convert to practices and processing equipment that will help to conserve additional water.

Topics: Sustainability