The industrial recovery and recycling process has been continually evolving, as companies have continued to look for ways to reduce and reuse hazardous waste.
Though recycling in some form has been around for centuries - Japan began the first-ever recorded reuse of waste paper in 1031 - the practice has evolved tremendously, allowing industries to reduce or even eliminate waste streams.
This evolution has not only helped companies that traditionally have had large waste streams from polluting the environment but has even provided cost-savings benefits that they didn’t anticipate.
Though recycling has been in practice for centuries, it wasn’t until the mid-1960s when the United States took action to address the increasing problems of industrial and municipal waste.
Passed in 1965 by Congress, the Solid Waste Disposal Act was the first federal effort to improve waste disposal technology. It established a framework for states to oversee and have better control over solid waste disposal and the landfills waste often ended up filling.
But, it was the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act in 1976 that more thoroughly addressed the disposal of solid and hazardous wastes. Also known as RCRA, this law is still followed today. Although, it has been amended over the years to strengthen its enforcement and address other concerns.
Goals of the RCRA include:
- Protecting the environment and residents from waste disposal hazards
- Conserving energy and natural resources
- Reducing the amount of waste generated
- Managing and proper disposal of any wastes
Under RCRA, several programs have been instituted, including a hazardous waste program that established a system for controlling hazardous waste from “cradle to grave”, or from the time it is generated to its disposal.
Open Loop Recycling
As time went by, open-loop recycling became very common in manufacturing industries. This type of industrial recycling ultimately delays disposal by converting manufactured goods and spent materials into new raw materials. These materials can then be used for another manufacturing purpose, such as a fuel source for a different manufacturing process.
In general, materials recycled through open-loop recycling are used for purposes different from their original purpose.
For example, recycled plastic bottles can be used to make fleece fabric for jackets. This process is “open” because the jackets are made from recycled bottles. But once this occurs, the jackets cannot be recycled. Essentially, they “leave the loop” and once no longer used, they will end up in a landfill or incinerator.
Despite this, open-loop recycling has allowed companies to extend the life of a material or substance.
For several decades, fuel blending has allowed companies to reduce hazardous waste disposal and fossil fuel consumption.
Fuel blending involves mixing alternative fuels with hazardous wastes that are in the form of liquids, sludge, ash or even some solids. This process blends organic waste streams into an alternative fuel for kilns used in manufacturing cement.
Fuel blending also conserves natural resources by replacing coal, oil and other fossil fuels in cement production. It’s also often less costly than incineration.
Though fuel blending has evolved to become a popular recycling option for many companies, there is a catch. For companies located in the Western United States, it can be costly to both their bottom line and the environment.
That’s because the closest cement kilns are near limestone quarries, which are located in the Midwest and along the East Coast of the United States. That means the final disposal of their hazardous waste streams is thousands of miles away, which can add transportation costs to their recycling budget and burn additional fossil fuels to transport the products. This goes against everything they hope to accomplish if they’re trying to improve their company’s sustainability and carbon footprint.
Closed Loop Recycling
Today, closed loop recycling is one of the hottest advancements in industrial recycling. That’s because this process can be done indefinitely without any degradation of a material’s properties.
Closed-loop recycling takes collected waste, recycles it and uses it again to make the same product it came from. This process is restorative and regenerative by design, and aims to keep materials at their highest utility and value.
At Temarry, for example, we combine solvent distillation, waste-to-energy and water treatment in a closed-loop recycling process that offers “True Recycling” for industrial solvents, organic solids and water-based hazardous waste.
By using hazardous waste streams that were previously earmarked for landfills or cement kiln fuel blending, our closed-loop recycling process delivers reusable solvents back to industry. This process is truly focused on resource sustainability, which helps hazardous waste generators achieve their corporate sustainability initiatives.
Closed-Loop Recycling also benefits hazardous waste generators along the West Coast by dramatically reducing the number of miles driven to transport the waste, thereby reducing their carbon footprint .
Our article, Open Loop Vs. Closed Loop Recycling, takes a closer look at why Closed Loop Recycling is better, particularly for hazardous waste generators located in the western United States.
The Future Is Now
Industrial recovery and recycling has evolved since the practice first existed, but especially in the the last few decades to address the needs of manufacturers across the United States and the world.
While industrial recycling practices such as fuel blending and other types of open-loop recycling are effective choices in reducing hazardous waste disposal, newer methods have made a greater impact in not only preserving the environment, but meeting regulatory requirements as well.
Companies that have gotten on board with this revolutionary solution realize that the future is now and are leading the way to a more sustainable method of hazardous waste management.