Automated process of seafood products
Cleaner production is defined as "the continuous application of an integrated preventive environmental strategy applied to processes, products and services to increase overall efficiency and reduce risks to humans and the environment". It involves the conservation of raw materials and energy, the elimination of toxic raw materials, and the reduction in the quantities and toxicity of wastes and emissions. This reflects a proactive "anticipate and prevent" approach as compared to the "pollution control" approach, which is an after-the-event "react and treat".
Fish processing typically consumes significant quantities of water and energy and discharges significant quantities of organic material, both as effluent and as solid waste. However, there is very little use of hazardous substances. Also, because of the many manual operations in the fish industry, operator practices have a significant impact on the plant performance, particularly in small-scale, low automation operations.
Water: As water is used extensively in fish processing, water saving measures are very common "cleaner-production" opportunities in this industry. The first step in reducing water consumption is to analyse water use patterns carefully to identify leaks and wasteful practices and ways to address them and determine optimum water consumption rate necessary to maintain process operations and food hygiene standards. Once water use for essential operations has been optimised, water reuse can be considered without compromising product quality and hygiene.
Effluents: Cleaner-production efforts in relation to effluent generation should focus on reducing the pollutant load of the effluent. The volume of effluent generated is also an important issue. However this aspect is linked closely to water consumption and the reduction of its consumption.
Pollutants: Opportunities for reducing the pollutant load of fish processing effluent principally focus on avoiding the loss of raw materials and products to the effluent stream. This means capturing materials before they enter drains and using dry cleaning methods. Improvements to cleaning practices are an area where the most gains can be made.
Energy: Significant reductions in energy consumption are possible through improved housekeeping and optimisation of existing processes, the use of more energy-efficient equipment and heat recovery systems. Also, there are opportunities for using more environmentally benign sources of energy. Opportunities include replacing fuel oil or coal with cleaner fuels, such as natural gas, purchasing electricity produced from renewable sources, or co-generation of electricity and heat on site.
CFC refrigerants: CFCs (chlorfluorocarbons) are still used fairly extensively in refrigeration systems, but their use is being phased out as a result of the Montreal Protocol on ozone-depleting substances. They should be replaced by the less hazardous hydrogenated chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) or, preferably, by ammonia. In the long run both CFCs and HCFCs should be replaced by other refrigerants according to the Montreal Protocol. However, replacing CFCs can be expensive, as it may require the installation of new cooling equipment.
FAO has been extensively involved in training developing countries in fish technology and quality assurance. The training programme has highlighted the use of clean technologies, water and energy saving practices as well as other practices that protect the environment.
Clean technologies and environment friendly practices are gaining more and importance in international fish trade. Given that the Eureopan Union, the United States of America and Japan import more than 75% of the fish internationally traded, it is very likely that these issues will gain more importance for market access.