Yorkshire firms to demonstrate waste reduction benefits

A £400,000 project to demonstrate to UK industry the potential benefits of using cleaner technology has been launched in a polluted industrial catchment in Yorkshire. The project is modelled on a recent scheme in the Netherlands which found that many waste minimisation measures either came free or paid for themselves within a year.

Initiated by the Centre for Exploitation of Science and Technology (CEST), the project will help up to ten companies in the catchments of the Aire and Calder rivers in Yorkshire to audit their processes and identify options for wastewater reduction.

The scheme is being sponsored by HM Inspectorate of Pollution, Yorkshire Water, the National Rivers Authority and the BOC Foundation for the Environment. They will provide £300,000, with the remaining £100,000 being paid by the participating companies.

The initiative is broadly based on the Dutch PRISMA (Project Industrial Successes with Waste Prevention) study, carried out in 1988-90. This identified ways of preventing waste and emissions in ten companies within five industrial sectors.

Of the measures identified by PRISMA, 82% were considered feasible and 27% could be implemented immediately. Of these, almost 80% either cost nothing or had a pay-back of less than one year.

One participant in the PRISMA scheme, DSM Resins, made major savings on two of its waste streams. One of its production processes used an earth filter on a perforated plate. This retained a significant amount of the resin product, and washing out the filter for the next batch used 38m3 of toluene or xylene and 108m3 of caustic rinse annually. By replacing the earth filter with filter candles, DSM drastically cut the consumption of rinse liquids and minimised product loss. The new filters paid for themselves within a year.

On another process, DSM made an instant 20% waste reduction by improving its sampling, with a potential further saving of 60% by installing an on-line sampling system.

The organisers of the Yorkshire scheme are hoping that it will yield similarly impressive results and raise the standing of waste minimisation in the UK. According to CEST's project leader Dr Neil Johnston, many firms remain unconvinced that simple housekeeping can dramatically reduce their effluent problems. The well-known hierarchy for minimising environmental impact - reduction at source, on-site recycling, off-site recycling, incineration or treatment, and, as a last option, storage or dumping - is often reversed when industry considers its investment priorities, he says.

Unlike PRISMA, the Aire and Calder project will concentrate solely on minimising the volume or strength of waste-water. March Consulting, which will manage the venture, is to ensure that this focus does not simply result in pollutant transfers to other media.

Candidates for participation in the scheme include a power station, a laundry, and several chemicals, drinks, printing and industrial cleaning firms. The final selection will include some firms which discharge direct to river and some discharging to sewer.

The scheme's approach will be based on a draft manual on waste minimisation published by the Institution of Chemical Engineers in March.1 A limited numbers of copies are available free for consultation and use over a one-year trial period.

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