Imagine a solution for industrial waste that is both cost-effective and environmentally-friendly.
For companies that generate hazardous waste as part of their industrial operations, that solution may seem far-fetched. But in today’s push toward zero waste, implementing a more sustainable model for waste has become a reality.
Understanding how to achieve both begins with examining the circular vs linear economy and the impact of each on industrial waste.
What Is The Linear Economy?
The Linear Economy relies heavily on large quantities of cheap, easily accessible materials and energy. This linear model that focuses on a take-make-dispose approach has been used since the dawn of the industrial revolution.
This type of economy essentially takes raw materials, uses them to make products and once those products are no longer useful, they are disposed of. The process then repeats itself.
The impact has been dramatic. The World Bank estimates that global natural resources are depleting by 45% each year. To make matters worse, even after these raw materials are extracted from the earth, they go to the landfills when no longer needed … compounding the negative environmental effects that come from this type of economy.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), landfill gas alone accounts for nearly 15% of all U.S. methane emissions.
This culture of consumption devalues natural resources extracted from the earth and prematurely ends these resources’ lives.
What Is The Circular Economy?
The circular economy embraces a make-use-return approach. In stark contrast to a linear economy, the circular economy keeps materials and products in use indefinitely. This eases the burden on natural resources because materials are continuously repurposed until they are finally recycled.
In other words, the circular economy model provides a framework for a system that is designed to be restorative or regenerative. It redefines growth, focusing on benefits that are society-wide and with the goal to design waste and pollution out of a system while keeping products and materials in use.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has been one of the biggest proponents of the circular economy. The organization launched in 2010 and has since advocated for incorporating the circular economy into decisions made by large and small businesses, organizations and individuals.
In the end, working toward a circular economy must be a systemic shift that not only generates business and economic opportunities, but also provides environmental benefits as well.
The Impact On Industrial Waste
The opportunity to implement cost-effective solutions that both promote business growth and protect the environment has impacted many different types of industries. From large corporations to small businesses, companies have found ways to incorporate zero waste principles into their production processes.
Companies that generate hazardous waste, especially solvent-based liquids, are no different. Waste management plays a critical role in the sustainability of a company. Those that generate solvent-based liquids, solids and sludge have traditionally relied on open loop recycling to take care of this waste.
What is open loop recycling? Open loop recycling is a method that delays disposal by converting manufactured goods and spent materials into new raw materials, which can be used for another manufacturing purpose. Materials recycled through open loop recycling are used for purposes different from their original purpose.
While this process delays disposal, it still retains many of the same qualities of a linear economy since new raw materials are extracted to replace the ones that are repurposed.
One of the most common examples of this is fuel blending. Fuel blending takes waste streams and blends them into an alternative fuel that is used in cement kilns. Although a more environmentally-friendly option than disposal, there are two main issues that companies face when they choose fuel blending:
- This process does not ease the overconsumption of raw materials.
- West Coast companies dramatically increase their carbon footprint due to the transportation of the waste to fuel blending sites, the nearest being in Kansas and Arkansas.
This old way of thinking does not address the desire of companies today to implement more sustainable approaches to waste management while creating cost-effective, long-term solutions. Another approach gaining traction in the industry does, however.
A New Future
Closed loop recycling embraces circular economic concepts by focusing on resource sustainability. Unlike open loop recycling, closed loop recycling means a material can be recycled indefinitely without degradation of properties. The process is regenerative by design and aims to keep materials at their highest utility and value always.
Several industries have embraced closed loop recycling, including computer and battery industries, because they often use expensive or complex goods that cannot easily be broken down post-consumption into constituent materials.
In waste management, the closed loop process is gaining in popularity because it takes an existing physical product, like industrial solvents, and recycles them in order to make a useful waste byproduct.
At Temarry Recycling, for example, the closed loop recycling process looks like this:
- A waste to energy process converts BTU organic solids to steam that is then used as energy on-site.
- A solvent distillation process then uses the steam generated by the waste to energy process as energy to power recovery stills. Through distillation, spent solvents are re-manufactured and sold back into industry for their original solvent properties.
- A water treatment process extracts usable water from industrial hazardous wastes, including acids, bases, coolants, oily water and latex paint. This ensures no component is wasted since treated water is used on-site for industrial needs, including the waste to energy process and in the cooling tower.
The big question for many companies, however, is why make this process a part of their future sustainability goals?
According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, if companies focus on building circular supply chains, more than $1 trillion a year could be generated globally by 2025, along with 100,000 new jobs.
Here are four additional ways companies that generate solvent-based liquids can benefit from using the technology such as the one Temarry Recycling offers:
- Reduced costs - Some worry that implementing sustainable practices that contribute to a circular economy will eat into profits. In reality, sustainable business practices create efficient operations and by conserving resources and enhancing productivity, costs are reduced.
- Lower carbon footprint - For companies located on the West Coast, sending their solvent waste to Temarry Recycling’s Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facility just across the United States-Mexico border versus cement kiln facilities in the Midwest reduces the amount of diesel fuel required for transportation. Transportation alone across the United States can produce more than 1,500 kg of carbon dioxide. This reduces not only a company’s carbon footprint, but transportation costs as well.
- Reduced cradle to grave liability - An EPA-authorized exporter of hazardous waste, Temarry terminates the original generator’s cradle to grave liability when the waste is exported into Mexico. As the importer of the hazardous waste in Mexico, Temarry becomes the generator in a new cradle to grave liability chain of custody.
- Improved image - Today, consumers are more educated and care about the influence of their purchasing power. A Natural Marketing Institute survey found that nearly 60% of consumers are more likely to purchase goods and services from a company that incorporates sustainable practices.
Closed loop recycling of spent solvents is a smart option for companies that want to achieve the highest level of sustainability while making sound financial decisions.
It’s also a game changer in industry today that is putting many companies ahead of the curve when it comes to corporate responsibility, setting them up for continued success and a sustainable future.