HMIP builds on Yorkshire waste reduction project

British industry could reduce its costs by £1 billion if it applied the waste minimisation techniques used successfully in the Aire and Calder Project in Yorkshire, according to the venture's originator, the Centre for Exploitation of Science and Technology (CEST). The scheme's achievements have prompted HM Inspectorate of Pollution (HMIP) to sponsor a study of the scope for waste reduction in three sectors of the chemical and metal industries.

The Aire and Calder Project was established in March 1992. Its objective was to assist the 11 participating companies to identify, with the help of a consultancy, ways of cutting their water consumption and effluent generation which would reduce both their costs and the burdens their operations impose on the environment.

A detailed progress report on the project, together with a similar scheme launched this summer in the Mersey Basin, was published in June (ENDS Report 221, pp 15-19 ). The latest results from the Aire and Calder are even more encouraging:

  • 524 waste minimisation measures have been identified on the 11 sites. Only 2% were rejected as infeasible, and 28% have already been implemented.

  • Annual savings in water and effluent costs currently amount to £2.2 million, and could be doubled if all feasible measures are implemented.

  • Most measures have good pay-back times (see figure ). Only 4% have a pay-back of over three years.

  • Water consumption and effluent generation have already been cut by 10-15%. But the potential exists to reduce water usage by at least 25% and effluent production by almost 40%.

  • More than 40% of the measures will also bring savings in raw material utilisation and hence improve efficiency.

    Dr Neil Johnston of CEST says that these results exceeded his expectations, and expressed confidence that "waste minimisation and cleaner technology will become a major stimulus for industry during the nineties and beyond. Indeed, the term Total Process Efficiency better captures the scale of impact this technique could have on the competitiveness of British industry."

    CEST has used the results to calculate the available savings if similar waste minimisation techniques were introduced by the whole of British industry - and has come up with a "broad brush" figure of £1 billion. This does not take account of potential savings from tackling emissions to air and solid waste, which were outside the scope of the Aire and Calder Project but are being addressed in the Mersey scheme.

    A follow-up study by CEST is now being funded by HMIP. Announcing the contract at a recent seminar, the Inspectorate's Director, Dr David Slater, said that "the basic objectives of integrated pollution control are to prevent, minimise and render harmless releases to the environment. The Aire and Calder Project has proved to us all that these aims are achievable."

    CEST will be examining waste minimisation opportunities in HMIP's Welsh, North East and South East divisions, focussing on the manufacture and use of dyestuffs, inorganic chemicals, and metal plating and finishing. It will also be aiming to identify companies willing to participate in demonstration projects.

    It remains to be seen whether the regional organisation of the Aire and Calder Project was critical to its success. The engineers from the 11 participating firms "regarded themselves as part of a little community", says Dr Bob Whelan of CEST, and only two companies could be regarded as being in direct competition. Attempting to organise a similar project on a sectoral basis could bring competitiveness issues more to the fore, he concedes.

    Another goal of the new study will be to identify areas of technology where further development is desirable to realise waste reduction opportunities. More than ten such areas were identified in the Aire and Calder Project. These included a variety of separation processes ranging from membrane filters to reed beds, scrubbers, washing processes, and improved material recovery loops.

    A full report on the Aire and Calder Project is to be published by CEST within the next three months. One issue on which information is lacking so far is what environmental benefits all this waste minimisation activity will bring.

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