Better for the environment
- Life sustaining
- Lesser pollutants
- Better for ground water
- Better for atmosphere
- Better for employees
- Better for ownership
- More productive
- More cost effective
“When it comes to cleaning machinery, why go green?” The obvious answer is to protect the environment. Of course, that’s a feel good answer to one of today’s most relevant topics, but most can’t explain what exactly that means. So I’m here to give you the answers to how you can not only help out Mother Earth, but also save money while doing this.
When it comes to cleanings, whether we’re discussing the cleaning of manufactured metals; oil, dirt and grime from motorcycle, car or boat parts or even ink jet cartridges or plastic injection molds or turbine assemblies in a power plant – going green offers many more benefits than simply just being environmental.
Solvents have been the traditional way to clean for decades. Free flowing solvents circulate from a holding drum through a faucet over parts that are scrubbed by a worker. Other delivery methods include soaking in solvent baths such as Varsol, Carburetor Cleaner, or methyl ethyl ketone (MEK). The practice of soaking with these solvents has essentially been outlawed due to toxicity to workers and the environment. Now solvents commonly come out of spray cans and are applied directly onto the part being cleaned; however, much of the spray atomizes into atmosphere or drops to the ground. The bottom line is that this byproduct of the cleaning process is horrible for our environment and creates waste of the cleaning product you are buying. But why is cleaning with water based methods or ultrasonic part cleaning better for the environment? Better for employees? Better for corporate and small business owners? Well, here’s the answer to that million-dollar question.
Manufacturing, refining, processing and using solvents creates VOC (volatile organic compounds) which release into the atmosphere. Whether you buy into global warming or not is not important. The fact is, VOC’s are released into the atmosphere and directly affect the ozone layer. We all know that the ozone layer is nature’s sunscreen, providing protection against UV rays, which cause a multitude of skin diseases. Maybe even more immediately important is that atomized solvents can travel into our lungs. Even the most hardened proponents of solvents will admit they dislike the smell and taste that can occur when an excessive amount of solvent is in the air. Some people’s hands blister and turn purple when exposed to prolong contact.
Solvents do end up spilling on the ground during use, when being transported to refining areas, and during final storage. The spilt solvents end up in our ground water. Not even the moat ardent solvent lobbyists believe this tainted water is good to ingest.
A number of employees are suffer consequences from breathing in solvents This can lead to long term health issues which then affect worker’s comp and health insurance premiums as well as missed time at work. So how are the small business owner and corporation served best by water based cleaning? The answer is green. But green meaning money saved by business owners.
Solvents are increasingly more expensive to purchase as the cost of petroleum continues to skyrocket towards the $100 per barrel mark. Higher costs of liability insurance continue to drive up the manufactured price of solvents. Disposal costs are higher as more regulation on how these products are transported, refined and stored increase. And the long-term exposure to the waste generator who is ultimately responsible “cradle to grave” for all solvent waste generated is hard to put a price on. The list goes on and on.
Water based cleaners still must be treated as the parts cleaned may generate potential hazardous waste, but companies have so many more options. Because we are dealing with water, recycling can be accomplished through flocculation treatment processes that extract the harmful waste, while retaining the water. Water can then be passively evaporated leaving only sludge and less water to process. This excess water can be boiled off.
Cleaning with water based soaps creates many positives: less environmental issues due to atomizing chemicals in air that normally get into workers’ lungs and bloodstream, doesn’t penetrate the skin, is less toxic to ground water and normally less costly to purchase. They can also be less costly to treat and can potentially save on missed days of work and worker’s comp.
But there will always be critics of progress. Some will say, “Cleaning with water isn’t as good as cleaning with solvents”. People even complain that the solvents allowed today aren’t as good as they used to be. “They don’t clean as well”. All this is true. Cleaning with water based soaps by themselves isn’t as strong as solvents. Doesn’t that prove the point that solvents are not good for anyone or any planet?
Water based soaps need some type of mechanical help to overcome their lack of inherent power. Whether it is through jet or pressure spraying, centrifugal force or agitation or even ultrasonic action creating millions of microscopic vacuum bubbles to form a vortex on impact with parts, the combined system can be quite powerful.
In fact, in many large piece cleaning applications, a jet spray is inherently better than a solvent soaking tank. And for items large or small requiring precision cleaning in threaded areas or inside tube or blind holes, ultrasound is far superior to any type of solvent. It cleans more thoroughly, with less labor costs and provides a better-finished product at a fraction of the costs associated with using good, old tried and true solvents.
The fact that there are very few instances when using a solvent to clean, which provides a more cost effective solution to the multitude of water based alternatives forces business owners to at least consider going green when doing their cleaning. Once you do the research, you will understand that it is not only environmental responsible, but makes perfect financial sense to GO GREEN.
Frank, you discussed many different ways of using Green, or environmentally, friendly technology when cleaning machinery. Since, I’m not a chemist or engineer, explain to me how your company, OmegaSonics, goes about your business.
Going Green is one of today’s coolest buzz phrases. Do you think that Green technology is a fad or it’s here to stay, even though businesses have take more of a financial hit when implementing it as a practice?
Even the term “ultrasonic cleaning” sounds cool. Explain to me please how it works. When did you realize that OmegaSonics needed to go Green and why?
Where do you see the “Going Green” movement ten years from now?