The Zero Waste Movement And Its Impact On Solvent Waste

Posted by Larry Burton on Sep 30, 2020 11:00:00 AM

If your company produces spent solvents, you’ve likely developed a plan to safely and legally dispose of them. 

However, the zero waste movement has added a new layer to the disposal plans of many companies, encouraging them to take their sustainable methods of disposal to the next level. 

Of the different waste streams, solvents can be one of the most challenging to manage because of strict government and industry regulations. For years, many companies have turned to sending their waste to Kansas and Arkansas for fuel blending. 

While this is considered to be an environmentally-friendly option and meets regulatory standards, for companies located on the West Coast, the cross-country trek substantially increases their carbon footprint due to the fuel that trucks use to transport the waste. 

For companies that want to incorporate zero waste principles while keeping their sustainability efforts at the highest level, this presents a problem.

What is the solution? The answer lies in a Closed Loop Recycling system that embraces the zero waste movement while enhancing sustainability initiatives, reducing the carbon footprint of West Coast companies and keeping materials at their highest value … always.

 

What Is The Zero Waste Movement?

 

zero waste movementZero waste is a term used across several industries and in many different sectors. This movement is an initiative that focuses on sending nothing to a landfill and reusing materials as often as possible. Whether it’s an individual, business, government entity or community, anyone can strive to achieve zero waste. 

While this may seem like an impossible feat, companies around the world are incorporating zero waste principles in their sustainability plans and showing that it can be done. In fact, our article, Going Zero Waste: Here’s 5 Companies That Did It, shares how five companies implemented zero waste practices in at least one part of their production processes.

Although recycling has been around for decades, more recently, the zero waste movement has become more widely accepted in the manufacturing industry, especially among companies that regularly produce hazardous waste including solvents.

These companies have begun seeing the value of replacing a “linear” economic model with a circular one that promotes extending the life of materials and producing zero waste. This is referred to as a circular economy.

How does a circular economy work? Traditionally, companies have operated under a take-make-waste approach of a linear economy business model. However, a circular economy keeps products in use indefinitely or as “food” for a process.

Zero waste principles incorporate the use of a circular economy because they work to ease a burden on natural resources and keep materials in use indefinitely. A linear economy, on the other hand, hurts companies because they are faced with unpredictable raw material prices and the increased cost of constrained resources.



How Are Solvents Recycled?

 

zero waste movementFor companies that produce industrial solvents, in particular, going beyond discarding these solvents using a linear economy business model can offer many benefits and take sustainability efforts to the next level.

What are industrial solvents? Solvents are molecules that can dissolve other molecules, known as solutes. A solvent can be solid, liquid or gas. A solvent’s molecules pull apart the solute’s molecules, and eventually the solute’s molecules become evenly distributed throughout the solvent. This homogeneous mixture cannot be separated physically.

To do this, heat or another chemical process must be applied to the solution in order to separate the solvent from the solute. Solvent distillation accomplishes this.

Through the application and removal of heat, solvent distillation separates a liquid or vapor mixture of two or more substances into its component fractions of desired purity. 

The solvent distillation recovery process is based on the fact that the vapor of a boiling mixture is richer in low boil point components. After the vapor cools and condenses, the liquid condensate is ready to be sold back into industry.

Here’s how a solvent distillation unit works:

  • A company transports its hazardous waste to a solvent distillation facility.
  • A fingerprint analysis is conducted, which identifies the waste and sorts it.
  • Liquid drums in the unit are pumped and filtered, after which solvents are pumped to the distillation unit. Here, volatilized solvent vapors expand into the fractionation column of the unit.
  • A heat exchanger cools off the solvent.
  • After cooling, solvents are directed to a finished product tank.
  • Workers then package the product into drums and totes for distribution back into industry.

If there are any portions of the original mixture that do not vaporize, these are not discarded (which would work against any zero waste initiatives performed as part of the process). Instead, these remains are recovered and used as an alternative fuel source in some industries.



How Does The Zero Waste Movement Elevate Solvent Recycling?

 

Although solvent distillation provides a sustainable option for safe disposal, ensuring a manufacturer’s solvents are not dumped down the drain or discarded in a landfill, it is just one part of a bigger picture.

As mentioned before, closed loop recycling offers manufacturers one of the best options for incorporating zero waste initiatives into their waste management plans. Solvent distillation is one component of closed loop recycling.

At Temarry Recycling, closed loop recycling is a restorative and regenerative process that embraces circular economy concepts. The goal is to recycle materials indefinitely so that the properties of the materials do not degrade.

When a manufacturer’s spent solvents are delivered to Temarry, here’s what happens:

  • A waste to energy process begins the loop. Organic solids with sufficient BTU are converted to energy in the form of steam. Waste is fed by a conveyor into the primary stage for thermal destruction, followed by a secondary thermal treatment. Inorganic solids, or ash, from the primary stage are quenched and fall into an ash hopper. 

Heat is then directed to a 200-horsepower steam generator, and the remaining gases are directed to a modern two-stage venturi scrubber to ensure that only clean water vapor is emitted into the atmosphere.

  • Solvent distillation then begins and continues the circle. Using the steam from the waste to energy process as energy to power the recovery stills, spent solvents are re-manufactured. This allows the solvents to be sold back into industry for their original solvent properties.
  • A water treatment process closes the loop, and extracts usable water from industrial hazardous wastes. Treated water is then used on-site for industrial needs, including during the waste to energy process and in the cooling tower.

zero waste movement

 

But what are some of the benefits to using the closed loop recycling system at Temarry versus using only solvent distillation or fuel blending?

  • Cost savings: West Coast generators who are sending their spent solvents across the country to fuel blending facilities pay a substantial amount in fuel and man hours required for transport. Temarry Recycling is located just 40 miles east of San Diego in Tecate, Mexico.
  • Carbon footprint decreased: This close proximity reduces a company’s carbon footprint by decreasing the amount of fuel needed for transport.
  • Reduced liability: Because of the shorter distance, companies enjoy a reduction in cradle to grave liability. When transporting hazardous waste to Mexico through Temarry Recycling, the waste generator’s liability for that waste ends at the U.S. border. 
  • Boosted image: Implementing sustainable and responsible practices in your company offers a boost to your reputation.



Your Bottom Line

 

As the zero waste movement continues to gain traction in the manufacturing industry, companies are looking for ways to boost their sustainability while making good business decisions. 

Temarry Recycling offers the best of both worlds … offering a way for companies to recycle their spent solvents as part of a closed loop system, while incorporating sound financial and forward-thinking solutions that benefit their short-term and long-term bottom lines.

 

 

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