In banana production, water is extensively used during the packing process. In order to optimize water consumption, Dole has developed several types of water recycling systems for implementation in the packing houses.
Water has three main purposes in the banana packing process:
- As a cleaning agent to remove debris and insects.
- As a holding and carrying agent while bananas await cluster formation and selection.
- As a latex removal agent.
The traditional packing process requires up to 150 liters (39.63 gallons) of water to pack a single banana box (18.14 kilograms or 40 pounds). Water is used to fill two pools, one for de-handing and one for latex removal, and is constantly flowing for proper utilization.
In the early nineties, Dole developed a partial recirculation system that used sand and gravel filters as a way to reduce water usage to 100 liters (26.42 gallons) per banana box.
At the same time, Dole introduced some remote areas of the Philippines to the Mobile Banana Processor – a miniature version of a standard packing plant, but with a 97% reduction in water use compared to standard plants.
A few years later in Ecuador, Dole inaugurated full water-recycling systems that re-used and re-circulated the water in packing facilities. These systems have been shown to save energy, protect aquifers, chlorinate water for fruit processing and help eliminate latex and metals. After reducing water usage to only 18 liters (4.76 gallons) per banana box, Dole installed over 120 full water-recycling systems throughout Ecuador. Within time, the systems were extended to the water-scarce areas of Colombia and Honduras. Several have also been installed in areas of Costa Rica that cannot easily access or extract water from wells.
As the Company’s management systems drive continuous improvement and strive to do better for consumers and the environment, Dole in Costa Rica began a complete redesign of the packing process in early 2009. Based on a holistic analysis and support from the workers, Dole developed the “New Millennium Packing Plant.” Rather than using water pools, this revolutionary system completes most activities directly in the banana fields, resulting in 90% less water usage and 50% less energy usage compared to traditional packing plants. Dole plans to adopt this new concept in some other banana production countries in which it operates.
The New Millennium Packing Plant was one of three initiatives, among 600 presented, to receive an “honorable mention” from the Scientific Committee of the World Water Week in Stockholm in September 2010.
For more information, read Dole’s case study, “The Dole New Millennium Packing System.”
Dole’s Technical Assistance programs for independent banana and pineapple growers worldwide have been integrated into Dole’s ISO 14001 certifications.