Based in Victoria, BASF Australia manufactures a range of acrylic latex products. These are packaged into different sized containers for transport and sale.
Until the cleaner production programme, the machinery used to fill the containers was cleaned between each product change to avoid contamination of the subsequent batch. This was done by pumping large volumes of water through the system and discharging the waste to the sewer.
While this cleaned the system effectively, it resulted in significant loss of the valuable material still in the pipes and consumed large volumes of costly water. In effect, money was being washed down the drain.
Cleaner production initiatives
The company's Cleaner Production Program team identified the waste of product when washing the pipes as a loss to the business. The team saw an opportunity to improve environmental performance.
BASF Australia tackled the issue by installing a reversible pump in the filling process. The pump is a self-priming and reversible peristaltic hose pump, capable of running dry without damage. No moving parts contact the material being pumped and the pump's hose can be quickly replaced without the need to dismantle the pump housing. This pump, which pumps air as well as product, made it possible to recover the material from the pipeline. The material is now being sold rather than lost as a waste.
Thinking about cleaner production and waste reduction also led the company to study pipeline efficiency. The team established compatibility between some of the products, which meant that they could schedule the production of compatible products in serial sequence, avoiding altogether the need for washing the pipes between these products.
Advantages of the process
Before the new processes were implemented, the estimated yearly loss of product was about 70 tonnes. The processes resulted in an 85% reduction in that amount. Also, water consumption has been reduced significantly.
In addition, by removing the need for pipeline flushing between compatible products, and the introduction of air pumping between non-compatible products, the downtime between filling different products was substantially reduced. This allowed faster product turnaround on the filling line and greater productivity.
The value of lost product was about $120,000 per year and the capital cost of the pump was $40,000. The expected payback period on the investment was about four months. With simple arithmetic that is a saving of about $80,000 in the first year, considering the product recovery rate.
Other benefits include a reduction in the cost of water and trade waste licences, better productivity and higher yield from product batches.
Cleaner production incentives
The opportunity for significant savings by reducing waste, while simultaneously improving environmental performance was a win-win for the company. The cleaner production philosophy also led staff to think about how other improvements could be made that would benefit the business.