The Cleaner Production Demonstration Project (the Project) is an initiative of Environment Australia - Environment Protection Group (EPG). The aim of the Project was to raise the awareness of Australian industry and actively promote cleaner production issues. This was to be achieved by conducting ten successful cleaner production demonstration projects in industry around Australia, documenting the benefits and experiences of the project, and publicising the results to wider industry. Dames & Moore, were engaged as technical consultants on the project. The project commenced in June 1994, and ran for 27 months.
Austcast was selected as one of the 10 companies to participate in the Cleaner Production Demonstration Project to participate in the project. This case study report presents a record of the progress of the project, from initial meeting to project completion, and detail the findings of the project and any problems which may have been encountered. This case study demonstrates the application of Cleaner Production to the foundry industry.
Austcast is the foundry division of Cutting Edges Pty Ltd, a division of Delta Group Australia. Austcast operates in Brisbane, Queensland, manufacturing high integrity, small to medium sized repetition steel, SG iron and other iron castings. The company uses Alkaline Phenolic binding resins with silica sands for their moulds and cores.
An initial 'review' of the site, conducted by Dames & Moore and Energetics in close discussion with Austcast's personnel identified a number of Cleaner Production demonstration projects as being potentially applicable to Austcast's operations. These projects included investigations into the following:
- Sand Reclamation;
- Improved Sand Quality;
- Trials of New Resins (and subsequent odour control); and
- Improved Recycling of Solid Waste Materials.
Follow up site visits and meetings between Dames & Moore, Borden Chemicals(Resin suppliers), Casting Development Centre (CDC) and Austcast evaluated the environmental and economic costs and benefits associated with each of the potential cleaner production projects.
The Sand Reclamation project was selected as the demonstration project as it was an area of major interest throughout the foundry industry. It has the potential for sand reclamation to provide significant environmental and economic benefit, with an expected short payback period on capital investment.
The initial sand reclamation project proposed involved the installation of the following components:
- A mechanical shake out area;
- A mechanical vibratory;attrition unit;
- A thermal reclamation unit
- A cooler/classifier
- A larger storage/surge silo; and
- Associated pneumatic conveying systems.
The installation of this equipment would increase the existing rate of sand reclamation from 20% to 90%. This would decrease the annual quantity of used sand disposed to landfill sites by 5,000 tonnes, with a subsequent saving of $270,000 in each year of operation and a return of the capital investment cost within a period of 4.1 years.
This project was not implemented because at the time, Austcast could not commit the large capital outlay required in an uncertain economic environment. Therefore a second short term project was proposed.
The short term sand reclamation project proposed included the following components:
- A cooler/classifier; and
- A new mechanical shake out area.
The installation of this equipment would ensure that the existing reclamation equipment could be utilised during the twenty weeks of summer. This would decrease the annual quantity of used sand disposed to landfill sites by 400 tonnes, with a subsequent saving of $23,000 in each year of operation and a return of the capital investment cost within a period of 4.3 years.
Although this project was not implemented during the time-span of the Project, the study reinforced that sand reclamation represented an economically viable, environmentally pro-active option to Austcast.
The critical lesson learnt from this project, in relation to foundry sand reclamation is that solutions are site specific. Each facility must research and investigate a sand reclamation system to suit the individual circumstances and needs of its operations.
This project reflects some of the difficulties in implementing Cleaner Production projects involving capital expenditure under economic uncertainties. This is particularly the case for small to medium companies which are especially vulnerable to economic conditions. Small to medium companies are also limited to the amount of capital available to invest and many projects (including those externally imposed) affect the ability to implement Cleaner Production projects regardless of the projected environmental and economic benefits.