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Case Study: Beauty & Personal Care Facility Reduces Wastewater Discharge Costs & Carbon Footprint

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Before investing in new technology solutions, industrial users should conduct a holistic review of their water systems to identify opportunities to elevate existing infrastructure capabilities or adjust operational approaches. Together, trusted technology partners and in-house engineers and technicians who have intimate knowledge of facility needs will be able to determine the best way to facilitate water circularity, but also operational intensity, keeping costs in mind. 

Treating beauty and personal care wastewater is challenging due to its nature and the high quantity of organics in its waste streams which are not readily biodegradable. This case study details how a leading personal and beauty care facility partnered with Aquatech to combat the rising costs of discharging high-organics wastewater. By conducting a holistic review of the site’s wastewater operations, it was determined that evaporative technology could improve its facility sustainability, reduce discharge costs, minimize operator intervention, and allow the facility to generate high-purity water that could potentially be recycled onsite.   

At A Glance (3)


A consumer goods company wanted to reexamine its wastewater operations at one of its beauty and personal care facilities to take a more sustainable approach to its water cycle. The site was managing its wastewater discharge through off-site hauling. Several tanker trucks per day came on-site to haul off the wastewater generated by the cleaning and manufacturing processes, a costly and labor-intensive strategy. This led to the facility assessing new ways to handle and treat its complex wastewater.

The site initially internally assessed new water management strategies by creating a demo plant to gather data to determine the feasibility of wastewater treatment through chemicals while completing a thorough analysis campaign to collect information on the variability of the quality and quantity of its wastewater. Eventually, the site looked externally for an alternative solution to reach the wastewater discharge level set by a local publicly owned treatment works (POTW), at which point, Aquatech was brought on to begin studying, in detail, the different treatment options available.


The wastewater is characterized by a very low level of salinity and a high level of organics, reaching up to 30,000 ppm as chemical oxygen demand (COD), making the long C-chain compounds not readily biodegradable.  

The traditional approach would be to pretreat the wastewater with a physical-chemical step aiming to absorb part of the organics within the flocs of inorganic sludge before concluding treatment with aerobic biological treatment. Although the conventional treatment path through chemical-physical and biological processes was effective, it was costly and labor-intensive for plant operators. 

The pretreatment required high chemical consumption and produced a lot of inorganic sludge, requiring significant chemical handling and sludge dewatering and disposal costs. At the same time, the biological treatment still had to deal with the high organic load that could not be removed in the pretreatment load resulting in large biomass tanks and blowers for COD degradation and biological sludge production. Additionally, every variation in the quality of the wastewater must be carefully managed by the operator to ensure the right amount of chemical is dosed, and the behavior of the biological system is closely monitored.  

Along with the site's support, Aquatech explored an evaporation-based strategy as an alternative to the traditional treatment for the following reasons:

    1. Low Operational Intensity – The site preferred to focus its plant operators on core manufacturing operations and simplify its water operations. The evaporator solution provided a simple solution that required minimal operator assistance.
    2. Disposal Costs – The evaporator would immediately address the disposal costs reducing the volume to be hauled off by ten times.
    3. Equipment Costs – The low salinity in the wastewater makes the material of the evaporator less exotic, therefore mitigating the CAPEX of the equipment.
    4. Lower Footprint Requirement – The evaporation system is more compact and easier to install in the space available.

Aquatech explored the two possible alternatives with some quick bench tests and confirmed that while both treatment paths were comparable in terms of equipment CAPEX, there were significant variations in OPEX and installation costs. The evaporator-based approach was also more convenient and compact, making it easier to install in available space.  

Following this preliminary assessment, the site opted for additional evaporation tests to be run by Aquatech’s ICD Process Technology Group at its Applied Development & Testing Center in Wisconsin, United States. 

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Following this preliminary assessment, the site opted for additional evaporation tests to be run by Aquatech’s ICD Process Technology Group at its Applied Development & Testing Center in Wisconsin, United States. 


Over two months, the center carried out the evaporation trials leveraging a Horizontal Tube Spray-Film™ using various effluents supplied by the manufacturing site. The pilot testing confirmed the expected performance of the evaporation while addressing the open process-related questions. 

Based on the results, the site decided to move forward with the evaporator solution. The evaporation system is a mechanical vapor compression-driven Spray Film Evaporator system. The design allows for easy access to the shell and tube sides for inspection and cleaning, and the unit is a fully integrated and automated system. 

Customer Benefits

The average savings in disposal costs were over $2.8 million per year. While using the evaporator technology added some additional costs associated with antifoam and caustic chemicals, power, steam, testing, discharge to sewer, and final concentrate disposal, the latter was reduced to less than one-tenth of the original value. Compared to the previous average monthly costs, the new solutions result in savings of around $240,000 per month. In addition to the quantified value, when compared with the typical treatment for this kind of wastewater, the solution delivered the following to the facility:

    • Ease of Operation – The evaporator unit operates automatically with minimal operator intervention needed compared to conventional treatment with chemicals and a biological reactor, which would have involved more intense use of personnel to operate, control and manage a multistep treatment.
    • Reduced Chemical Exposure – The evaporator consumes fewer chemicals and does not produce any solid residue, which reduces chemical exposure and creates a much safer environment for the operators.
    • Increased Sustainability – The high-quality distillate achieved through the evaporation process can be reused, and the concentrate produced by the evaporator, a valuable high-organic liquid, can potentially be used to feed anaerobic reactors that produce biogas and, in turn, energy. Since trucking is no longer required, disposal costs and impact on the environment are reduced through this solution.
Based on these benefits, the beauty and personal care facility’s choice to change its wastewater management strategy and take over the ownership of its waste treatment was successful from an economic perspective. The new wastewater management strategy can also be considered a step towards more sustainable operations at the site.

About Aquatech International

Aquatech International is a global leader in water technology and services for industrial and infrastructure markets. With a focus on solving water scarcity through desalination, water reuse, and zero liquid discharge (ZLD), Aquatech has executed over 2,000 projects across 60 countries. Leveraging the experience and know-how gained over 40 years handling some of the most difficult-to-treat waters, Aquatech helps the world's most recognized companies reduce their water and carbon footprint, ultimately reducing water risk. For more Aquatech news and information, visit   

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