There is a movement in corporate America to utilize the most environmentally conscious methods of waste management for hazardous waste streams. At the top of the list of sustainable business practices is recycling.
In fact, whenever feasible, the EPA encourages facilities that generate hazardous wastes to recycle their waste streams for a variety of reasons including:
- reducing the consumption of raw materials
- reducing pollution
- reducing energy use and
- reducing the volume of waste that must be treated and disposed of
Let’s look at the two main processes of recycling – open loop recycling and closed loop recycling. These processes are radically different in their approach and impact to the underlying raw materials, so it’s important that hazardous waste generators understand their impact to make the most sustainable choice.
Open Loop Recycling
Open loop recycling is a method that delays disposal by converting manufactured goods and spent materials into both new raw materials, which can be used for a manufacturing purpose, as a fuel source for a different manufacturing process and waste products.
Typically, materials recycled through open-loop recycling will be used for purposes different from their original purpose.
This means that the input into the recycling process is converted to a new raw material, which can be used as an input into another manufacturing process.
Materials in an open loop recycling process are treated using various forms of treatment including heat, chemical reactions, or physical crushing.
According to openlooprecycling.com, “The most familiar example of this is recycled plastic bottles being made into fleece fabric for jackets. This process is considered “open” because the fleece jacket made from the recycled bottles can’t be recycled again and will eventually have to” leave the loop” and wind up as waste in a landfill or incinerator.”
Another process that is considered open loop recycling is fuel blending. Fuel Blending services are considered an environmentally-friendly recycling option for solvent-based liquids, solids and sludge. The process blends organic waste streams into an alternative fuel for kilns used in manufacturing cement.
Closed Loop Recycling
Closed loop recycling is a process where waste is collected, recycled and then used 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 always.
Closed loop recycling is focused on resource sustainability, which means that recycling of a material can be done indefinitely without degradation of properties. In this case, conversion of the used product back to raw material allows repeated making of the same product, which helps hazardous waste generators reduce carbon footprint and achieve corporate sustainability initiatives.
Closed-loop recycling is common in specialized industries, such as the computer and battery industries, which use expensive or complex goods that cannot easily be broken down post-consumption into constituent materials.
A prime example of a closed-loop recycling process is the recycling of aluminum cans. Aluminum can be recycled to form new cans with little material degradation or waste creation.
Open Loop Recycling vs Closed Loop Recycling – Which is Better for Spent Industrial Solvents?
Currently, many hazardous waste generators believe there to be limited options when it comes to the disposal of spent industrial solvents, widely used throughout industry. Because of a high barrier to entry for recycling facilities located in the United States, most hazardous waste disposal companies choose to offer fuel blending to their generator clients.
Fuel blending involves combining spent solvents with compatible flammable materials, filling tanker trucks with the blended materials and shipping these substances to the Midwestern United States to be processed and then used as a fuel source for cement kilns. Though it is considered a form of recycling, once it is used as fuel, the underlying resource is gone forever.
This is a safe and effective use for spent solvents, however, for Western United States companies there is a more effective and sustainable option to consider.
Temarry Recycling located about 40 miles east of San Diego, CA in Tecate, Mexico is an excellent example of what can be achieved with closed loop recycling for spent industrial solvents. Temarry combines solvent distillation, waste-to-energy and water treatment in a closed loop recycling process to offer “True Recycling” for industrial solvents, organic solids and water-based hazardous waste.
By using hazardous waste streams (organic waste solids) previously earmarked for landfill or H061 cement kiln fuel blending in very distant locations, Temarry offers a truly sustainable recycling process for their customers and delivers reusable solvents back to industry.
Closed Loop Recycling Is Clearly the Better Option
For hazardous waste generators located in the western United States, this offers several benefits, including:
- A reduction in the transport distance of the waste stream. The closest cement kilns that utilize hazardous waste as an alternative fuel are located in Kansas, Missouri and South Carolina. This represents a tremendous reduction of carbon footprint.
- With reduced transport distance, cost savings can be achieved.
- A reduction in “cradle to grave” liability. Temarry is an EPA authorized exporter of hazardous waste. Once your waste stream crosses the border, your liability for the waste stream ends.
- With Temarry’s closed loop process, fresh industrial solvents are delivered back to industry, giving you the highest level of sustainability for your waste stream.
Contact your hazardous waste vendor to find out if they are partnering with Temarry and using their closed loop recycling process.