Waste management today requires forward thinking and viable alternatives as manufacturers explore ways to cut costs and improve their sustainability initiatives.
Although sometimes an afterthought, solvent waste plays a valuable role in industry. With the right disposal processes put into place, solvent waste can also offer manufacturers a way to save costs and help reduce their dependence on natural resources.
This push toward embracing circular economy concepts under the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has helped thrust solvent waste management into the spotlight. As more companies look for ways to increase their competitiveness while avoiding resources that are becoming scarce or experiencing price volatility, here are three common questions about managing solvent waste using Ellen MacArthur Circular Economy principles.
What Is The Ellen MacArthur Circular Economy?
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has been an instrumental organization in promoting the idea of a circular economy.
What is the circular economy? The circular economy is an economic system that focuses on eliminating waste and the unnecessary use of resources. It aims to reduce dependency on resources, some of which are becoming scarce.
Currently, many companies operate under a “take-make-waste” approach. This is known as a traditional linear economy business model. Businesses that operate under this approach experience many challenges, including unpredictable raw material prices and high costs of constrained resources. In other words, in order to work, this model relies heavily on large quantities of cheap, easily accessible materials and energy.
That’s often not realistic, which is why more and more companies are replacing a traditional industrial model with one that keeps materials in continual use through recycling. This is known as the circular economy.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that the circular economy is an overall concept. How this economic model specifically applies to your business varies based on several factors, such as the product or service your company provides or the type of waste you generate.
Is Fuel Blending Circular?
No. Although it is an environmentally-friendly option, fuel blending is not considered to be a circular economic practice.
Today, some companies that generate hazardous waste dispose of their solvent-based liquids, solids and sludge through an open loop recycling process called fuel blending.
Fuel blending is a process that blends organic waste streams into an alternative fuel for kilns used in manufacturing cement. It is an example of an open loop recycling process because it delays disposal by converting manufactured goods and spent materials into different raw materials, which can be used for another manufacturing purpose.
In other words, materials recycled through open loop recycling are used for purposes different from their original purpose. Fuel blending is an example of this because spent solvents are combined with compatible flammable materials and shipped to the Midwest to be processed and used as a fuel source for cement kilns. Although this is a form of recycling, once it is used as fuel, the underlying resources are gone forever.
There’s another important note to keep in mind about fuel blending, especially for West Coast generators. Companies that utilize this process may believe that they are enhancing their efforts to be more environmentally-friendly.
While this is true because fuel blending is a form of recycling and is far more environmentally-friendly than pouring solvents down the drain (which is also illegal), West Coast companies dramatically increase their carbon footprint due to the transportation of that waste to fuel blending sites across the country. The nearest cement kilns from the West Coast are in Kansas and Arkansas.
This can be a costly choice for companies who utilize fuel blending to dispose of their solvent waste. Traveling across the country not only increases a company’s carbon footprint through the burning of fossil fuels for diesel fuel, it also increases transportation costs substantially.
How Is Solvent Waste Managed In The Circular Economy?
Closed loop recycling methods offer companies that generate solvent waste the opportunity to embrace circular economy concepts in their waste management.
Closed loop recycling is a restorative and regenerative process with the goal of keeping materials at their highest utility and value always. It’s an example of the circular economy in practice since this type of recycling focuses on resource sustainability by recycling a material indefinitely without degradation of properties.
In waste management, a closed loop process takes an existing physical product, like industrial solvents, and recycles them in order to make a useful waste byproduct. Temarry Recycling, based in San Diego, operates a recycling facility in Mexico that embraces a “make-use-return” approach to recycling solvent waste.
Here’s how the process works:
- Waste to Energy: A waste to energy process converts high BTU organic solids to steam, which is then used as energy on-site.
- Solvent Distillation: The solvent distillation process 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.
- Water Treatment: Closing the circle, a water treatment process extracts usable water from industrial hazardous wastes, including acids, bases, coolants, oily water and latex paint. Treated water is used on-site for industrial needs that include the waste to energy process and in the cooling tower.
While this type of recycling embraces circular economy concepts, closed loop recycling has several additional benefits as well.
- Closer transport distance: A significant concern of fuel blending for West Coast companies is the transport distance required to send solvent waste to facilities in the Midwest. Temarry Recycling’s TSDF is located just across the U.S.-Mexico border, allowing companies to reduce their carbon footprint and transportation costs due to less fuel required for transport.
- Reduction in “cradle to grave liability”: Temarry is an EPA-authorized exporter of hazardous waste. Once your waste steam crosses the border, your liability for the waste stream ends.
- Highest sustainability achieved: With Temarry’s closed loop process, fresh industrial solvents are delivered back to industry, giving companies the highest level of sustainability for their waste streams.
The cutting-edge closed loop recycling process offered at Temarry Recycling embraces the circular economy while offering companies real advantages. Whether it’s in the form of cost savings, a boosted public image or the opportunity to meet corporate sustainability goals, implementing a circular economy into your waste management plan is a smart, viable plan that puts your company on the leading edge.