This April the U.S. celebrated the 48th annual Earth Day, and news outlets all over the world focused on the work people are doing to conserve and preserve the environment. In the manufacturing world, many companies are making strides towards becoming zero waste manufacturing facilities. Since minimizing waste is one of AEC Systems’ largest priorities in designing our parts washers, we wanted to examine this concept of zero-waste manufacturing further.
What Is Zero-Waste Manufacturing?
Zero waste manufacturing is an initiative that aims to completely eliminate waste by reducing or reusing all products and byproducts of the manufacturing process. While in practical terms it is impossible for a manufacturing facility (or any business) to produce zero waste, many companies have been able to achieve Zero Landfill status. To do this, companies:
- Prevent or minimize waste in their production process
- Convert waste into energy
- Reuse, recycle, or compost remaining waste
General Motors currently has 142 zero waste facilities. Another company dedicated to zero waste is Volkswagen. Volkswagen donates all of their used pallets to local community projects which use the wood for recycled or upcycled projects. Redirecting pallet waste from landfills is a net good in terms of the environment. It saves money on disposal costs. The community also benefits, making this a win-win strategy for Volkswagen in terms of both costs and public relations.
How Does the Zero-Waste Philosophy Affect Parts Washers?
As we’ve noted before, parts washers make both the service and industrial sectors run. Parts washers are everywhere – in farming, fuel production, manufacturing, transportation, and construction. Parts washers are input/output machines, however. They require chemicals, water, and/or heat to operate, and they do produce wastes.
Parts washers that operate using solvents will have toxic chemicals that must be disposed of. Parts washers that use water, surfactants, and agitation to clean parts will also produce wastes in the form of heat, sludge, and water based cleaners. Fortunately, these wastes are not as expensive to dispose of or as damaging to the environment.
Using the criteria listed above, it’s obvious that it will be much easier for manufacturers wanting to become zero waste to use aqueous parts washers simply because it is easier to separate many of the metals and oils and recycle them, preventing them from entering the environment.
The less waste a business produces, the more efficiently it is operating. Highly efficient companies realize greater energy savings and increased profitability. This is a virtuous cycle, and it’s why so many large corporations are pursuing zero waste as a goal. Companies interested in transforming their process to zero-waste manufacturing should shift from using parts washers that require solvents to using aqueous parts washers as one more strategy toward achieving that goal.