Using advanced, innovative processes, Ford’s manufacturing plant in Saarlouis will launch a one-year test to investigate the possibilities of reducing its waste output.

Hugo Clysters, head of Ford’s European Environmental Quality Office, said that the auto company would employ several state-of-the-art water treatment technologies on the project as it intends to progress its investigations from the laboratory to large industrial scale applications. Clysters added that the global car company’s ultimate goal is to significantly reduce the environmental footprint of automotive manufacturing.

The process targets more effective cleansing of waste water generated by the plant’s vehicle painting operation. By-products of the painting process are waste particles, grease and salts, which are dissolved in the waste water. The water is then processed together with waste water from other areas of the plant in the site’s regular waste water treatment facility.

However, Ford is hoping that the additional three-stage treatment process applied in the new test will lead to the ultimate target of zero waste water from the paint operation.

During the project, after the regular treatment, the waste water will be passed through a so-called ‘solid bed reactor,’ where it will undergo further cleaning in three steps. First, biologically degradable substances will be decomposed by specific bacteria in a ‘biological stage.’

The water then goes through a ‘nano-filtration’ process. This involves passing an extremely thin membrane, or bio-membrane, that is only permeable by tiny particles. Finally, a reverse osmosis will occur which, in combination with the nano-filtration, will result in the separation of waste particles from the waste water stream.

By re-circulating the cleaned water into the production process, the ultimate goal is to completely eliminate waste water from the paint operation and thus considerably reduce the need for fresh water supply to the Saarlouis plant.