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Because potato processing wastewater contains high concentrations of biodegradable components such as starch and proteins [7,8], in addition to high concentrations of chemical oxygen demand (COD), total suspended solids (TSS) and total kjeldahl nitrogen (TKN) [9], the potato processing industry presents potentially serious water pollution problems. An averagesized potato processing plant producing French fries and dehydrated potatoes can create a waste load equivalent to that of a city of 200,000 people. About 230 million liters of water are required to process 13,600 tons of potatoes. This equals about 17 L of waste for every kilogram of potatoes produced. Raw potato processing wastewaters can contain up to 10,000 mg/L COD. Total suspended solids and volatile suspended solids can also reach 9700 and 9500 mg/L, respectively [10]. Wastewater composition from potato processing plant depends on the processing method, to a large extent. In general, the following steps are applied in potato processing: washing the raw potatoes; peeling, which includes washing to remove softened tissue; trimming to remove defective portions; shaping, washing, and separation; heat treatment (optional); final processing or preservation; and packaging.

The potato composition used in potato processing operations determines the components of the resultant waste stream. Foreign components that may accompany the potato include dirt, caustic, fat, cleaning and preserving chemicals. A typical analysis of potato waste solids from a plant employing steam or abrasive peeling is shown in Table 2. Generally, the various waste streams are discharged from the potato plant after being combined as effluent. It is difficult to generalize the quantities of wastewater produced by specific operations, due to the variation in process methods. Many references and studies in this respect show wide variations in water usage, peeling losses, and methods of reporting the waste flow. Several publications on the characteristics of wastewaters resulting from various types of potato processing are summarized in Table 3 for French fries [11,12], Table 4 for starch plants [12], and Table 5 for the other types of potato processing plants (chips, flakes, flour, mashed) [13-18].

Processing involving several heat treatment steps such as blanching, cooking, caustic, and steam peeling, produces an effluent containing gelatinized starch and coagulated proteins. In contrast, potato chip processing and starch processing produce effluents that have unheated components [11].

Art Deco Corner Clip Art
Figure 6 Typical potato flour plant (from Ref. 3).
Table 2 Composition Percentage of Potato Waste Solids


Amount (%)

Total organic nitrogen as N


Carbon as C


Total phosphorus as P


Total sulfur as S


Volatile solid

As for the starch plant effluent, the resulting protein water and pulp form about 95% of the total organic load in the effluent. Table 4 represents the composition of waste streams of starch plants and summarizes a survey of five starch plants in Idaho/United States, with and without pulp.

It is evident that if the pulp is kept and not wasted, the organic load is significantly reduced. Potato pulp has been proven to be a valuable feed for livestock when mixed with other ingredients and thus represents a valuable by-product [19]. Protein water is difficult to treat because of the high content of soluble organic water [3].

In plants of joint production of starch and alcohol found in some countries, the pulp and protein water from the starch production is used for alcohol fermentation. As for the wastewater streams in French fries plants, it can be noted from Table 3 that the spray washer forms the main organic load (BOD and COD) in comparison to other waste streams. The large variations in wastewater composition can be observed in the potato processing plants as presented in Table 5, particularly in COD and TSS concentrations and pH values.

Depending on the abovementioned characteristics of potato processing wastewater, the following should be highly considered:

• Potential methods for reducing the load of waste production including in-plant measures for water conservation, byproduct recovery, and water recycling.

• Choosing the wastewater treatment systems that take into account the wide variations of wastewater compositions, due to wide variation in potato processing steps and methods, in order to reduce the wastewater contaminants for meeting in-plant reuse or the more stringent effluent quality standards required in the potato processing industry.

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