A pilot program being conducted by Chiquita Brands International has reduced water use in banana packing stations by 8 million gallons a year.
Cincinnati-based Chiquita started its water recycling and purification system in 14 packing stations in Panama, Costa Rica and Guatemala in 2008. Spokesman Ed Loyd said the company has reduced water used for packing bananas by 60% to 90% in those locations.
A Chiquita banana facility in Costa Rica features a water purification and recycling system. The company has reduced water used for packing bananas by 60% to 90% in the locations using the system, says Ed Loyd, Chiquita spokesman.
“There is an investment in the water recycling installations, but that is amply justified by the benefits of long-term protection of water sources,” Loyd said. “This is an investment designed to ensure good water conservation, but which also prudently protects a resource which is essential for local communities and Chiquita’s own farming operations. Even in the high rainfall areas of Central America, where Chiquita’s farms are located, the protection of aquifers is important.”
Water plays a big role in the packaging of bananas — washing the fruit, removing the natural latex that flows from the cuts made to create clusters, and flotation during selection and packing.
Loyd said that if latex stains bananas the fruit can’t be sold. The gummy, white substance is typically removed from water tanks by continually replenishing the water and by replacing the water in the tanks daily.
He said used water is filtered before returning to the environment, but no effective system had been found to remove the latex until recently.
Loyd said the new system, which uses processes of flocculation, precipitation, filtration and sedimentation, are capable of recycling and purifying water used in the packing stations for one to three weeks.
“While the investments required are substantial,” he said, “this technology offers important advantages.”
Those advantages include protecting and maintaining ground water resources, returning water to the environment clean and free of latex and improving banana quality in regions where well water with a high mineral content stains bananas during the washing process.