As more and more companies are making pledges to go zero waste, manufacturing industries are taking a closer look at how they too can achieve this lofty goal.
For many manufacturers, completely eliminating waste is not realistic. There are many steps manufacturers can take to improve their sustainability, however. For companies that generate industrial solvents, simply taking a closer look at the way they are disposed of or recycled can bring them closer to achieving zero waste.
What Is Zero Waste?
The goal of zero waste is to send nothing to a landfill and recycle as much as possible.
The term “zero waste” is used widely across many industries both in the private and public sector. Even individuals or the residential sector can work to achieve zero waste.
Many companies today are working to achieve zero waste by introducing more sustainable practices into their operations. Many of these companies still operate under a “linear” economic model, or one that operates under a take-make-waste approach.
By extending the life of materials and producing zero waste, however, companies can switch to a more “circular” economic model. This keeps products in use indefinitely or as “food” for a process.
However, why would a company want to put the zero waste movement into practice at its own facility? Because zero waste principles ease the burden on natural resources and keep materials in use indefinitely. Companies that rely on the opposite type of economic model often face unpredictable raw material prices and the increased cost of constrained resources. Especially, in a Covid-19 world where supply chains have been streched to their limit, or failed completely.
Is Fuel Blending A Form Of Zero Waste?
No, fuel blending is not a form of zero waste. However, many companies that generate industrial solvents turn to this common practice as a way to incorporate more environmentally-friendly waste management solutions.
Fuel blending is a process that blends organic waste streams into an alternative fuel for kilns used in manufacturing cement. However, it does not lead to zero waste because once these solvents become fuel, the underlying resource is gone forever. This makes fuel blending a form of open-loop recycling.
If your facility regularly generates solvent waste, fuel blending can be a costly choice, especially if your company is located on the West Coast. The nearest cement kilns from the West Coast are in Kansas and Arkansas. Transportation of your waste must travel across the country to reach these facilities. This means you will incur significant fuel costs, which can also be difficult to predict.
This high amount of fuel usage also means a higher carbon footprint than a solvent waste solution closer to home.
How Can Industrial Solvents Achieve Zero Waste?
So what is that solution that is closer to home? Solvent distillation is a popular method many industrial companies are choosing to separate the solvent from the solute. 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.
This 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 is how solvent distillation works:
A company transports its hazardous waste to a solvent distillation facility.
Here, a fingerprint analysis is conducted. This identifies the waste and sorts it.
Liquid drums in the unit are pumped and filtered, after which solvents are pumped to the distillation unit. Volatilized solvent vapors expand into the fractionation column of the unit.
A heat exchanger cools off the solvent, and afterward, solvents are directed to a finished product tank.
Workers then package the product into drums and totes for distribution back into industry.
How does solvent distillation produce zero waste? If there are any portions of the original mixture that do not vaporize, these are not discarded. Instead, these remains are recovered and used as an alternative fuel source for other industries. In other words, there is zero waste left during the solvent distillation process.
BUT, that’s not the end of the story. When solvent distillation is part of closed-loop recycling and recovery system. That opportunity is available much closer to home for West Coast companies than fuel blending facilities, saving companies substantial transportation costs, lowering their carbon footprint due to using less fuel, and improving their sustainability.
Below, we’ll explore what that looks like.
How Does Closed Loop Recycling Produce Zero Waste?
At Temarry Recycling, solvent distillation is one component of closed loop recycling. The goal of closed loop recycling is to recycle materials indefinitely so that the properties of the materials do not degrade.
In addition to solvent distillation, closed loop recycling incorporates a waste to energy process and a water treatment process to achieve True Recycling. Here’s how this works.
Waste To Energy
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 closed the loop. This process 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 Amplified
This circular pattern ensures zero waste because no materials are wasted or discarded, and the properties of the material do not degrade. A closed loop recycling system also offers additional benefits, including cost savings.
Temarry Recycling is located just 40 miles east of San Diego in Tecate, Mexico. West Coast generators who send their spent solvents to the nearest fuel blending facilities in Kansas or Arkansas typically pay a higher amount in fuel and man hours required for the longer transport.
In turn, companies will enjoy a decreased carbon footprint because of the shorter transport distance and less fuel required. They will also receive the benefit of reduced 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.
In the end, companies that generate industrial solvents can enjoy a higher level of sustainability and achieve true recycling through solvent distillation, especially when it’s part of a zero waste closed loop recycling process.