Filter recycling service helps auto makers go landfill-free

RP news wires
Tags: green manufacturing

They said it couldn’t be done. Various filter suppliers and recycling companies had tried to recycle the industrial filters used in metalworking applications at automotive manufacturing plants and other facilities. But the best most plants could do was to incinerate the filter media, capturing a small amount of metal from the filters to sell to scrap metal dealers or send to landfills.

They said it couldn’t be done. Various filter suppliers and recycling companies had tried to recycle the industrial filters used in metalworking applications at automotive manufacturing plants and other facilities. But the best most plants could do was to incinerate the filter media, capturing a small amount of metal from the filters to sell to scrap metal dealers or send to landfills.

Working with two General Motors facilities, Waste Free reclaimed 480 filters and diverted 156,000 pounds of waste from landfills in the first five months of 2010 alone.

“We introduced this service in 2007 to help users of our filters become landfill free,” said Glenn Rowe, president, Waste Free, noting that the company prides itself in creating less than 1 percent secondary waste. “This helps our customers conserve resources, prevent pollution, and enable green jobs.”

Together with Crystal Filtration, Waste Free helped General Motor’s Flint South plant to become GM’s first powertrain manufacturing facility to be landfill free.

“Waste Free gives plants such as ours a more sustainable solution,” says John Bradburn, an environmental engineer in GM’s Worldwide Facilities Group, noting that the output of Waste Free’s recycling efforts become the raw materials for new GM vehicle products, providing a “cradle-to-cradle” approach to commodity management. “Waste Free’s process allows us to reduce, reuse and recycle, which are key tenets of environmental sustainability and part of GM’s commitment to being a responsible corporate citizen.”

Cleaning Up a Dirty Business

Metalworking shops rely on filters to clean the process coolant liquids used to flush away metal shaving debris, keep tools from overheating, and provide lubricity during metal cutting, grinding, and polishing. A typical auto manufacturing plant can use hundreds of such filters a year in the manufacture of engines and other automotive components. Once used, the filters contain residual coolant liquid (typically a mixture of oil and water), metal chips which can be brushed off, and unremovable powdered metal in the filter media. Without Waste Free, these used filters and the debris they contain would be destined for landfill and/or incineration. And even incineration generates ash which may be sent to landfill.

Waste Free captures about two to five gallons of entrapped coolant liquids from each shipment, and the company returns that liquid, in tote bins, to a company that specializes in supplying the liquid back to companies, such as GM, for continued use. “Loose” metal – typically aluminum – is removed and sold to metal dealers for melting into new aluminum coils. Using customized machinery and a patent pending process, the used filter is then further processed to create new raw materials for the cement and steel industries; the unremovable powdered metal embedded aluminum or iron fines become ingredients in the cement or steel coil.

Minus the returned coolant liquids and brushed-off metal chips, out of the 156,000 pounds of used filters Waste Free processed in the first five months of 2010, approximately 125,000 pounds of new raw materials were created for these new industrial processes. Waste Free meticulously tracks all materials from the point of receipt to final disposition to provide a clear chain of custody.

“We design these filters on the front end so that, once used, they can be re-purposed,” Rowe says, explaining Crystal Filtration’s product lifecycle approach. “And we do that without sacrificing the superior filtration capabilities of the filters.”

About Crystal Filtration
Crystal Filtration is based in Rochester Hills, Mich., and specializes in the filtration of coolants and other specialized chemicals for the automotive, steel and metal working industries. Waste Free was created to enable the automotive industry to become landfill-free. For more information about Waste Free, visit www.waste-free.com


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