In April this year thousands of activists unleashed strategic disorder in London for 10 days to draw attention to the accelerating climate crisis.They barricaded roads and bridges at major city landmarks, with more than 1,000 peacefully submitting to arrest. A month later more than a million school children around the world went on strike to demand action on climate change, calling on politicians and businesses to take urgent action to slow global warming. From shareholder revolts to mass ‘die-ins’; campaigns highlighting plastic pollution to ‘carbon-offshoring’ – environmentalism is changing the way that we see our world. Consumers are asking more questions about the products and services they are purchasing and that is driving change throughout the supply chain.
“There are opportunities for growth but also to lose out”, says Dave Broxton, Managing Director, Bohle. “There’s a proven link between sustainable business practice and increased efficiency. Conversely, if you can’t demonstrate what you’re doing to reduce the environmental impact of your business, you’re going to be excluded from opportunities – never mind the potential penalties and increased operating costs that go with waste.”
This is the ‘green supply chain’ in action. Studies show that around 70-72% of the total environmental impact of the construction industry is generated through its supply chain in the form of building material manufacture, transport and associated costs. Moreover, estimates suggest construction accounts for 33% of all waste in the UK, consuming around 60% of all materials, making the circular economy and sustainability a key challenge for housebuilders and commercial providers.
“It’s not just about what you’re not doing but what you are doing. For those businesses that are embracing sustainability, there’s an opportunity to add value and with it margin to their offer. Higher public rankings for sustainability go hand-in-hand with greater return”, Dave continues.
Waste water – a hidden cost
Modelling by Bohle demonstrates that one of the major sustainability challenges facing the glass processing sector is how it manages waste water used in the machinery cooling and cleaning process. This shows that using just 400 litres of water as part of your weekly cleaning cycle equates to a yearly water consumption of approx. 20,000 litres as well as high cost for its disposal.
“When we talk to glass processors they’re often surprised by how much margin and production capacity that they’re losing”, continues Dave. “Contaminated coolant can have a massive impact on your productivity, reducing the efficiency and service life of tooling by as much as 30%, never mind what it’s doing to your edge quality. In addition to that you’ve got the cost of cleaning the machine and changing the coolant. This can easily run to six to eight hours a week. That’s the equivalent of a day’s production plus the manpower costs.”
Penalties for polluters
And if you are tempted to cut down on waste water disposal costs by letting it run out into a surface water drain, you may also want to think again. To dispose of waste water into the drainage system you need specific consent to do so from your water and sewerage company, with specific controls in place on suspended solids. If you’re found to be operating outside of your Trade Effluent Notice, you could be found in breach and charged with an offence under Section 121 of the Water Industry Act 1991 – this carries an unlimited fine.
“Trade effluent is classed as any effluent that is produced from a process or activity connected to processes carried out as part of commercial trade or industry, so in short it applies to all glass processors”, Dave explains. “Limitless fines are just the starting point. Housebuilders, commercial space providers and corporates are scrutinising their supply chain like never before. Fines are the starting point, you’re going to lose out on future business.”
Providing a solution for waste water
The glass processing industry has traditionally relied on centrifugal water cleaning systems, however, according to Bohle, these can’t filter glass particles < 5 µm. This is something which, it argues, can over time, contribute to lower product quality and a build-up of concretion in the machine and its tanks. It gets over this problem through an alternative system. Suitable for a wide assortment of grinding, drilling and sawing glass equipment, Bohle sedimentors use a sophisticated and automated, multi-stage process to remove contaminants from coolants and water. This includes filtering of glass particles of < 5 µm or less but doing so using far less energy.
A key feature of Bohle’s range is that it uses a ‘bypass system’ for batch cleansing. This isolates water, coolant and flocculant, from the line during the cleaning process, completely eliminating the potential risk from flocculant contamination and tool damage. Combined with improved product quality and increased service life as well as trimming around 10 per cent off the costs of water disposal, it suggests sedimentors will pay back against purchase costs in as little as a year.
“You’re getting cleaner coolant, more out of your tools, better product quality and increased productivity with less downtime”, says Dave. “It’s also worth mentioning that there are currently a number of grant schemes available to drive improved sustainability within industry. This includes up to 50% of the purchase cost towards green manufacturing initiatives from an EU sustainability fund administered through Growth Hubs and Local Enterprise Partnerships. These are clearly only going to last as long as we remain in the EU, so if you are considering investing in new machinery, now is the time to do it. Regardless of the availability of funding sedimentors will pay for themselves in as little as a year. The bigger and more important picture is that it allows you to demonstrate your commitment to sustainable manufacture.
“That’s important in a commercial environment where sustainability is a key driver of profitability.”