Due to the growing markets demand, industrial activity is increasing by leaps and bounds. To adapt to this situation, factories need to produce every time, which means a greater consumption of resources, raw materials and, of course, a notable increase in the generation of industrial waste.
This last point, the generation of industrial waste, is one of the most critical issues facing our planet today. To solve this problem, more and more work is being done on transforming the current linear economic model to a circular economic model, where the reuse of waste will be prioritized over the use of virgin raw materials.
Within this framework, in today’s blog we will tell you what types of industrial waste there are, which ones can be reused and the work methodology that we follow at ATRIA to reincorporate these industrial waste into the industrial fabric.
What is an industrial waste?
Industrial waste, as its name suggests, are those that are generated as a result of any industrial activity. Processes such as the manufacture, transformation, use, consumption, cleaning or maintenance of industrial processes result in the generation of different types of waste, commonly known as industrial waste.
These industrial waste must be managed correctly by the producer, who has the obligation to dispose of each of them. Until now, a lot of waste has been taken directly to landfill, however, the circular economic model aims to reuse the maximum possible amount of waste to reduce its impact and, therefore, the consumption of future raw materials.
For this reason, companies, which are increasingly committed to the environment, are adapting their manufacturing processes to be able to use the waste they generate as another resource. This dynamic is becoming a key aspect within any industrial sector.
What types of valuations are?
Depending on the characteristics of the waste (physical state, composition or amount that is generated, among others) there are different options for its reuse or recovery. For this reason, more and more initiatives are being carried out by companies and organizations to find the most suitable recovery routes for the different industrial waste generated within each industrial sector.
Below, we indicate in order of priority the most interesting recovery options for any type of industrial waste.
- Reuse of waste. Above any other recovery option, if a waste can be directly reused in another industrial process, this must be the main way of management. The reason is that a waste transformation process will not be necessary to adapt it to the new process or use. In this way, the environmental, economic and energy impact is reduced.
- Material recovery of the waste. This type of recovery is based on obtaining materials, or compounds of interest, from the industrial waste generated. These materials, or compounds, are recovered to be able to be reincorporated to a new industrial process, replacing a virgin raw material. Through this type of recovery, the environmental impact is mainly reduced, while the economic and energy impact will depend on the transformation needs rather than the waste to obtain the compounds of interest.
In order to obtain the interesting compounds from a waste or to condition it for the new process, there are a great variety of transformation processes. Some of the most characteristic are: drying, crushing or separation using different chemical or physical techniques, among others.
- Energy recovery of the waste. In this case, the main objective of the recovery is to obtain energy from the incineration of waste. It is an interesting option, however, this type of valuation is outside the strategic plan of the European Commission. The main objective is the mitigation of climate change, since the production of energy from waste exceeds the established CO2 emission limits (<100g CO2 eq / kWh).
In general, if the waste allows it, the most recommended strategy is to reuse the waste directly in another process or use, without the need for transformation processes. In the event that this is not possible, it is recommended to carry out the least number of transformations until obtaining the compound of interest, in this way the economic cost of the recovery is reduced and it can compete with a virgin raw material. Finally, if it is not possible to obtain valuable materials from waste, the energy recovery that has the least impact on the environment is recommended.
Types of industrial waste
There is a wide range of industrial waste. Depending on the process in which they are generated, the compounds they contain, the physical state or the danger, industrial waste can be classified in many ways. In this case, thinking of reusing the waste or reusing the materials it contains, we have classified the waste according to the main materials that comprise it:
- Organic waste. As its name suggests, these wastes are mainly composed of different organic compounds, which can come from agri-food activities or from another type of activity.
Regarding the volume of waste, the most common are waste generated within the agri-food sector. Agri-food waste is a very interesting group, since it can contain compounds with high added value. A clear example of this type of waste is the fruit waste that are generated during the juice manufacturing processes. In general, these remains are waste whose value is very low and need space to be dried or transformation processes. However, from these residues it is possible to obtain compounds with high added value for use in cosmetics or cleaning.
Within this group we would also find other products such as solvents or paints, which are also interesting to reuse or value, since they have a great environmental impact and high price in some cases.
- Plastic waste. Despite being organic compounds, due to the large amount of plastics that are currently generated, we consider it a group apart. Today, plastics have become one of the most used materials in the world. The main reason is its low cost, which has caused that, until now, the manufacture of new plastics has been prioritized over reuse. Of the 300 million tons of plastic waste generated, only 14% is recycled.
Depending on the type of plastic that you want to reuse, or the additives it contains, you must resort to one recovery process or another. Therefore, it is very important to identify the main plastic, the necessary separation processes and the final objective. It is important to note that not all plastics are easy to recycle, however, there are increasingly better transformation techniques to give new opportunities to this type of plastic waste.
A clear example of the reuse of plastics is carried out with the sports equipment of some football teams, which are manufactured from one of the main plastic wastes in the world, plastic bottles.
This process can be achieved with other types of plastics, since the versatility it has when making new products with them is very large and varied.
- Metal waste. Unlike plastics, metals are not so cheap materials, which is why, on many occasions, it is necessary to recover them for new processes.
Within this large group of waste, the clearest example of metal recovery occurs in electronic waste, as it contains precious metals of high market value.
- Textile waste. This type of waste is growing more and more due to the short duration of current clothes or the many changes in fashion on the market. For this reason, we must face the large amount of textile waste that is generated. Currently, there are different options to recover or reuse this type of waste.
An example is the manufacture of interior panels from textile waste.
- Mining waste. Due to the nature of this sector, large amounts of waste are produced. These generally have a very low value and a very high weight.
In our case, taking advantage of the characteristics of these wastes, we have managed to reuse them as low-cost counterweights.
Benefits of recovering a waste
As we have already told you in previous posts, the reuse of waste or recovery does not have the sole benefit of reducing environmental impact. Here are some other advantages:
- Reduction of transport and management costs. A lower amount of waste generated means a lower cost of management and transport.
- Improvement of the economic profitability of processes. The recovery of waste and by-products is increasingly important at an economic level. The main reason is that the use of recovered materials, from the process itself or from other processes, represents a very important cost reduction compared to the purchase of new raw materials. In addition, reducing waste management can have a very positive impact on the economic profitability of any process.
- Creation of new businesses and jobs. Due to the need of implement waste recovery in industries and society, more and more companies need new jobs related to this activity. In addition, there are new business models that focus their activity on the recovery of waste.
- Improved brand image. Companies that are committed to reducing the environmental impact of their products or processes are increasingly seen by society and by the end consumer. Therefore, it is becoming an increasingly important aspect at the marketing level.
How to value an industrial waste?
In order to find the best possible solution for each waste, at ATRIA we study each case individually. To do this, we follow the following steps:
- Characterization of the waste or by-product. To determine the possibilities of a waste or by-product, it is essential to know its composition.
- Selection of the most suitable opportunity for each case. We will seek the best ways of reuse and recovery in order to reintroduce the waste or product in the value chain.
- Necessary treatments. If the waste must be conditioned to incorporate it into another process, the necessary techniques will be studied.
- Testing and prototypes. In the event that it is necessary to validate an idea, in our laboratory we manufacture prototypes and carry out concept tests, validations and demonstrations, both of the treatment and of the final application.
- Industrialization. All the projects we carry out have to have an industrial sense, so this stage is present throughout all phases. Once the validation is finished, our team of engineers will be in charge of industrializing the idea.
Do you want to apply the recovery of industrial waste in any of your Projects? Contact us!